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Commentary on the Bhagavadgita

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Discourse 31: The Tenth Chapter Concludes – God's Special Manifestations

God manifests Himself in creation through His essential natures. His natures can be classified into existence, knowledge, power and bliss. God is existence. Existence is common to all things – even a rock, even a hill, even a stone exists – and in that sense, philosophically, we may say that God is present even in inanimate things. But the quality of existence seems to be a special consideration in the assessment of any kind of value. If a person merely exists, we do not feel that it is adequate. If a person exists and also has knowledge, we consider that person to be superior to the person who merely exists. If the person exists, has knowledge, and also has some power, we consider that person as superior to the person who has existence and knowledge but no power. But if the person has existence, knowledge, power, and also immense bliss characterising his personal life, we consider that person as almost superhuman.

What are the degrees of the manifestation of God in this world? We can rule out the characteristic of existence, inasmuch as it is present everywhere and we cannot say that God is not manifest in anything; God is manifest everywhere. The point made out in the Tenth Chapter is that He is especially manifest in certain things, though He exists uniformly everywhere as pure Being. Wherever there is knowledge and power, there God’s manifestation seems to be superb. In the list that is given here in the Tenth Chapter, the emphasis seems to be on knowledge and power.

We can appreciate that knowledge cannot be found anywhere except in a human being. There is some kind of knowledge in everything – even plants have an inkling, and animals have some knowledge. When we speak of knowledge, we generally speak of the understanding that characterises the human species. But power can be either physical or mental. In physical power, animals are superior to man. Man cannot stand before animals as far as physical strength is concerned; but man has a mental power which is superior to animals. Hence, while any animal can terrify man physically, man can subdue any animal mentally.

Therefore, here in the delineation of the glories of God, various aspects of manifestation are taken into consideration. Very strong animals like lions are also considered to be manifestations, though their strength is only physical. A king is considered to be a manifestation, though we cannot say that the power of the king is mental; his power is administrative, and it has to be equated with physical power. And certain creatures, like alligators or crocodiles, are also considered to be specimens of the manifestation of God because crocodiles have a special strength of their own – a purely physical strength.

Thus, in the delineation of the categories of the manifestation of God in the Tenth Chapter, perhaps God – the Lord – wants His glories to be seen where there is intense knowledge and intense power, both physical and mental. Wherever we see supreme physical strength, we may say there is an inkling or a little expression of that which surpasses all that is inferior to us. As far as mental power is concerned, there is no need to say much about it because it is supreme power. Mental power can control the whole world, while physical power is local and it can work only at a particular place, and not everywhere.

The God that is supposed to be manifest in all things is mentioned here as revealed throughout creation – in all the realms of being, right from Brahmaloka downwards, because even the names of the celestials are mentioned here as manifestations. Briefly, it was said that the supreme manifestation of God is in the selfhood of all people. Ahamatma gudakesa sarva-bhutasaya-sthitah (10.20): Wherever there is an enhancement of the character of selfhood, or pure subjectivity, there we may say that God is predominantly manifest. Where there is too much expression of objectivity, and the consideration that material value surpasses spiritual and religious values, there we may say that God’s presence is less. So, the selfhood which is the spiritual character of things is to be regarded as the principal manifestation of divinity in all things. Aham adis cha madhyam cha bhutanam anta eva cha: It is said briefly that God manifests Himself as the beginning, the middle, and the end of all things. Everything originates from Him, all things are sustained by Him, and all things will return to Him in the end.

Now the specific manifestations are mentioned. The general manifestations are as the Creator, the Sustainer and the Destroyer, the Self and the Soul of all things. These are the general supreme manifestations; but there are lesser manifestations as particular items of creation.

The greatest and the most adorable of the particular units of creation before us is the sun god. Adityanam aham vishnur (10.21): “Among the Adityas, twelve in number, Vishnu Aditya am I.” Surya atma jagata tastuhshasca (Rig Veda 1.115). Surya is supposed to be the self of everything that moves and does not move. Surya atma jagata tastuhshasca is a Vedic statement, and we know very well the extent to which the sun god determines life in this world. Verily, the sun is a god. Suryah pratyaksha devata is also another saying, which means the sun is the visible god. If we want to see God in this world, we  have to see God in the sun, as no glory can equal the sun.

It is said there are twelve manifestations of the sun. It is difficult to explain as to what these twelve are, because it is mentioned “among the Adityas, Vishnu am I”. Towards the end of the Bhagavata there is some mention of twelve suns, which are just nomenclatures of the manifestation of the same sun during the twelve months of the year. But there are other interpretations which say that the twelve suns are not just the names of the same sun during the twelve months of the year. There are concentric circles of solar manifestation in the cosmos, which is something very difficult for us to understand. It is a purely theological, astronomical, or mystical concept which we usually never hear of. It is believed that because this earth is one of the planets going around the sun, the sun may be said to be the father of this entire family of the planets. This solar system is also one of the planets that goes round another sun, like which there are many other solar systems also going around it like planets. That second sun, which is a superior central luminosity and regards this solar system as its planet or satellite, is itself a satellite of another sun; and the entire superior second solar system goes around that sun as a planet. In this way it goes on higher and higher until we reach that supreme state, which is the twelfth sun, identified with Lord Vishnu himself – that is, God Himself is the final sun. That is what we can make out, if at all we are able to understand the sense of this statement adityanam aham vishnur: “Of the twelve Adityas, Vishnu am I.”

Jyotisham ravir amshuman: “Of all brilliances, the brilliance of the sun is Me.” Marichir marutam asmi: “There are forty-nine Maruts, of which Marichi, the pre-eminent one, is Myself.” Nakshatranam aham sasi: “At night, the biggest luminosity is the moon. Though the moon is not a star, it is figuratively considered to be a star because of the luminosity that it sheds; because it is the biggest luminosity at night, it is considered to be star-like in appearance. That is also My glory – particularly the luminosity of the full moon.”

Vedanam sama-vedo’smi (10.22): “I am Sama Veda among the Vedas.” Because of its intonation, the beauty of its melody and the belief that it is the quintessence of even the Rig Veda – and, in addition, it is set to music – the Sama Veda is considered to be especially sacred.  Devanam asmi vasavah: “I am Indra among the gods, because he is the king of the gods.” Indriyanam manas chasmi: “Of all the perceptive capacities, I am the mind.” This is because even though the sense organs are organs of perception, no doubt, without the mind they cannot perceive anything; the eyes cannot see, the ears cannot hear, etc. The central cognitive or perceptive faculty is the mind. It is the king. The mind is the king in this body, operating its satellites which are the sense organs. So “I am the mind among the sense organs – that is, the cognitive functions.” Bhutanam asmi chetana: “I am consciousness among all people. Wherever there is awareness, consider Me as manifest there.”

Rudranam sankaras chasmi (10.23): Just as there are twelve Adityas, there are eleven Rudras, of which the most peaceful and compassionate one – the salubrious and most easily approachable, calm and quiet one – is Siva. Rudra is supposed to be very angry, ferocious and active; but all forms of Rudra are not like that. Rudra is also Siva. There is the Siva aspect which is calm and blessed and subdued, and there is also Rudra which is fierce. “There are eleven Rudras, of which the glorious, peaceful Sankara am I, radiating love and compassion.”

It is said that Ravana worshiped Rudra in all the forms. Ravana had ten heads, and whenever one was cut off, another would grow in its place. The story goes that Ravana cut off one of his ten heads and offered it to one form of Rudra. He then cut off another head and offered it to the second Rudra. In this manner he offered his ten heads to ten Rudras; but the eleventh Rudra could not be appeased because Ravana did not have eleven heads. The eleventh Rudra became angry because nothing had been offered to him, so he appeared in the form of fierce Hanuman. It is said that Hanuman in Lanka was a manifestation of the eleventh Rudra – Rudravatara – who destroyed Lanka because Ravana could not satisfy him. It seems that Ravana wept and said, “If I had eleven heads, I would not have suffered like this. I had only ten.”

Vitteso yaksha-rakshasam:“Among the Yakshas and Rakshasas – the demi-gods, who are neither brutal Rakshasas nor gods but are something midway between them – I am Kubera, the lord of riches, the treasurer of Rudra or Siva.” Vasunam pavakaschasmi: “There are eight Vasus, called Ashtavasu, who are also demigods. Of them I am Agni, the fire god.” Meruh sikharinam aham: “Of all the highest mountains with towering peaks, I am Meru Parvata.”

Purodhasam cha mukhyam mam viddhi partha brihaspatim (10.24): “Among all preceptors, guides, and all gurus, I am Brihaspati.” This is because Brihaspati is supposed to be the most intelligent and wisest of all teachers. He is the guru of the gods and the teacher of the deities of all the planets. Brihaspati is highly spiritual, and is a god himself. Senaninam aham skandah: “Among military generals, I am Skanda.” Skanda, or Kartikeya, was the most powerful leader of armies. Sarasam asmi sagarah: “Among reservoirs of water, I am the ocean” because it is the vastest reservoir of water.

Maharshinam bhrigur aham (10.25): “Among rishis, I am Bhrigu.” Among the sons or progeny of Brahma, Bhrigu is considered here as representing all the might and glory of all the rishis. Marichir atri-angirasau pulastya pulahah kratuh bhrigur vasishtha ity ete (Bhagavatam 4.29.43): Of the ten sons who were born to Brahma, the Lord considers Bhrigu as supreme in his power and glory. Therefore, “I am that Bhrigu himself.”

Giram asmy ekam aksharam: “Of all the roots of the style of language and sound, I am Omkara or pranava.” Every sound, every intonation, everything that we see and every kind of language and sound formation is a manifestation of Omkara. “I am that Omkara Itself.”

Yajnanam japa-yajno’smi: “Among all spiritual sacrifices, I am japa-yajna.” Neither sacrifices in which different forms of oblations such as ghee, etc., are poured into the fire, nor material sacrifices or even ritualistic worship are equal to japa-yajna, because it is the most harmless and non-material of all sacrifices. Therefore, “I consider japa as the greatest of spiritual sadhanas.” Sthavaranam himalayah: “Among immovable things, I am the Himalayas. Nobody can shake Me.”

Asvatthah sarva-vrikshanam (10.26): “Among trees, I am the sacred Asvattha.” This is the peepul tree, which is considered as the most sacred of all trees. People worship the three gods Brahma, Vishnu and Siva through this tree – considering Brahma as the root, Vishnu as the middle, and Rudra as the top. Mulato brahmarupaya madhyato vishnu rupine agratah siva rupaya vriksharajaya te namah (Ashvattha Stotram):  People prostrate to Asvattha and circumambulate the tree again and again to expiate all their sins and receive divine blessings. Most sacred is the Asvattha tree.

Devarshinam cha naradah. “Among all the Deva rishis, I am Narada.” There are varieties of rishis – Brahma rishi, Raja rishi and Deva rishi. If a spiritually adept supreme genius becomes a rishi, he is called Brahma rishi. Vasishtha is a Brahma rishi. Janaka is a Raja rishi. Narada is considered to be a Deva rishi because he is one of the celestials and yet he is a seer.

Gandharvanam chitrarathah: “Among all the Gandharvas which are the leaders of music and aesthetic science – art of every kind – I am Chitraratha.” Gandharvas are celestial musicians and dancers. Together with Apsaras, they are supposed to decorate and entertain the celestials in heaven, especially in the court of Indra.

Siddhanam kapilo munih: “Among perfected siddhas, I am Kapila.” Kapila was the progenitor of the Sankhya philosophy, and was also the teacher of a special kind of bhakti yoga. In the Third Skanda of the Srimad Bhagavata, he speaks to his own mother Devahuti about the highest philosophy of bhakti, divine devotion. A siddha is one who has all the eight powers of yoga. A yogi who has eight powers can become small or big, light or heavy, pervade everywhere, and can even touch the moon with his fingers. Rishis have such powers. “Among them, I consider Siddha Kapila as supreme, and I am manifest in him.”

Uccaihsravasam asvanam (10.27): "Among the treasures that rose from the ocean when it was churned for the sake of nectar by the gods and the demons – as it is told in the Puranas and especially in the Srimad Bhagavata – among these treasures, the divine horse called Uccaihsravas is Me." It is the most powerful, most beautiful and most glorious of horses, and it is now under the control of Indra. "Such horse which is divine in nature, which came from Amrita Manthana, the churning of the Milky Ocean, that Uccaihsravas am I.” Viddhi mam amritodbhavam: that which came from the nectarine ocean.

Airavatam gajendranam: "Among mighty elephants, I am Airvata." Another treasure that came from churning the ocean is Airavata, an elephant – the ideal of elephantine strength. It is the vehicle of Indra. Naranam cha naradhipam: "Among all human beings, I am king" because a king controls all persons.

Ayudhanam aham vajram (10.28): "Among all destructive weapons, I am Vajra." Vajra is the weapon of Indra. It was made of the spine of a rishi called Dadhichi, and because of the tapas sakti of that sage, Vajra is an invincible weapon. Because it is an invincible weapon, God is supposed to be manifest in it.

Dhenunam asmi kamadhuk: "Among other treasures that came from the churning of the ocean, Kamadhenu is a wish-yielding cow. Anything that you want will be given by that cow, and that cow am I." The daughter of Kamadhenu, called Nandini – who used to pour forth anything that one wanted – was taken care of by Vasishtha. When King Visvamitra went to Vasishtha's ashram, Nandini entertained him with such a glorious repast that Visvamitra was stunned; and we have the story of the battle that then took place between Vasishtha and Visvamitra due to this cow, which is the daughter of Kamadhenu. Kamadhenu is the mother, the most divine of all cows, and is in heaven.

Prajanas chasmi kandarpah: "Of all the impulses to create, the power of reproduction is Myself, because it is the most powerful impulse in people. That which alienates itself into another – the self-reproductive instinct – is the most powerful instinct in a person; that acts because of My being behind it."

Sarpanam asmi vasukih: There are two kinds of snakes, poisonous and non-poisonous. "Among poisonous snakes, I am Vasuki."Anantas chasmi naganam (10.29): "Among non-poisonous snakes, I am Ananta" – on whom Narayana is reclining in the milk-ocean. Varuno yadasam aham: "Among aquatic beings, I am Varuna." Because Varuna is supposed to be the king of all waters, he is the aquatic god and rules over all that is inside the ocean.

Pitrunam aryama chasmi: "Among pitrs, I am Aryama." Just as there are many Adityas and many Rudras, there are also many pitrs; and Aryama rules over them.

Yamah samyamatam aham: "Among those who restrain, control, punish, and exert law and order everywhere, Yama am I." Yamadanda is the punishing principle which maintains law and order in the universe.

Prahladas chasmi daityanam (10.30). "Among Daityas, because of the goodness and devotion of Prahlada, I consider Prahlada as Me." Demons are very terrible, and we cannot find a demon who is a devotee of God; but Prahlada, the son of the demon Hiranyakasipu, happened to be a devotee of God. Therefore, even among Daityas there are some good ones.

Kalah kalayatam aham: "Among all transforming principles, time am I. Because the succession of events and everything that takes place in a historical process has a beginning and end, and because the very principle of evolution or involution is time, I am at the back of it."

Mriganam cha mrigendro'ham: "Among all animals, I am the lion." We know the glory and the power of the lion. He is the king of the forest, and the king of animals. Vainateyas cha pakshinam: "Among birds, I am Garuda." Garuda is one of the celestial birds, and is mentioned at the beginning of the Mahabharata. Narayana, or Vishnu, is supposed to be riding on him. Garudadhvaja is Narayana, or Vishnu. Garuda is the most sacred and most powerful of birds.

Pavanah pavatam asmi (10.31): "Among all purifying principles in this world, breeze, air, wind am I." Nothing can purify more than air. There must always be a breeze. Just as light is purifying, air is also purifying.

Ramah sastra-bhritam aham: "Among all the warriors, Rama am I." Nobody is equal to Rama. When he takes up his bow and arrow, the earth simply trembles.

Jhashanam makaras chasmi: "Among aquatic fish-like creatures, the crocodile am I." The crocodile is not a fish, but lives in the water and is the biggest and most powerful; therefore, it is considered as a special manifestation.

Srotasam asmi jahnavi: "Among all rivers, Ganga am I." Ganga is the most holy of rivers. It comes from heaven itself, and passes through all the three regions – Svarga, Bhuloka and Patala.

Sarganam adir antas cha madhyam chaivaham arjuna (10.32): "Of all creative processes, the beginning and the middle and the end I am." He is repeating once again that He is all-in-all – the Creator, Preserver and Destroyer.

Adhyatma-vidya vidyanam: "Among all learning – all sciences, arts and academic acquisitions – spiritual knowledge am I." All other knowledge is secondary, because it is only spiritual knowledge that takes us to the immortal Self-realisation.

Vadah pravadatam aham: "Among discussions, I am the art of argument and logical disquisition, producing proof by deducing inferences from premises." This is because all discussions culminate finally in the production of a proof by logical demonstration.

Aksharanam akaro'smi (10.33): "Among all the letters of the alphabet, I am the initial primary vowel 'a'." The vowel 'a' has to be with every other kind of intonation and letter of the alphabet – ka, kha, ga, gha, cha, chha, ja, jha. Whatever we may say, akara is at the back of it. Dvandvah samasikasya cha. Samasa is a kind of grammatical combination where two words of equal importance are joined together. It is a peculiar Sanskrit-oriented argument – ramascha krishnascha ramakrishnau – which is a joint presentation of two things in one word, and both words are equally important. Therefore, they are called dvandva, one being equal to the other. And because of the equality of the two principles involved in samasa, dvandva, the Lord says He is that. "One is not inferior to the other. I equilibrate both things."

Aham evakshayah kalah: I am the imperishable time that controls and restrains all creatures."Dhataham visvato-mukhah: "I am Brahma himself, with faces all around, who creates this cosmos."

Mrityuh sarva-haras chaham (10.34): "I am the destroying principle at the end of time. I become a Rudra and dance to the tune of the dissolution of the whole cosmos. The tandava nritya of Rudra will take place at the end of time. When the music of the damaru starts, the earth will tremble and become pieces; the sun, moon and stars will fall down, and the whole of creation will become liquid. I am that destroying principle." Udbhavas cha bhavishyatam: "I am also the principle that will re-create after the destruction."

Kirtih srir vak cha narinam: "The beauty, the glory, the modesty and the grace that is found in women, that also am I." Smritir medha dhirtih ksama: The power of memory, understanding, fortitude, and the capacity to forgive is a glorious quality of people. All these qualities are Me."

Brihat-sama tatha samnam: “The Sama mantra, which is called Brihatsama, am I." Among Sama mantras, there is a special Sama called Brihatsama. It is a highly spiritually charged invocation of God;  therefore, it is called Brihatsama – large Sama – the most powerful of Samas. It is the most important mantra, and it is chanted with music in the Sama Veda. Gayatri chandasamaham (10.35): "Among all the mantras of the Vedas, the Gayatri mantra am I. Also among all the metres, I am Gayatri." The Gayatri mantra is the very root and essence of all the Vedic mantras.

Masanam marga-sirsho'ham: "Of the twelve months, the month of Margasirsha is Myself." This is because of the subdued atmosphere of that particular period of the year when it is neither hot nor cold. Therefore, the Lord describes Himself as present in this harmonious presentation of atmospheric condition – the spring and the autumn. Margasirsha corresponds to autumn, to some extent. Ritunam kusumakarah: "I am also spring," He says. He is spring and autumn both, because these are the two periods of the year when it is neither too hot nor cold, when it is pleasant. "I am that pleasant time."

Dyutam chhalayatam asmi (10.36): "Among the deceivers, I am the gambler." Very strange! That is: "The best and the worst am I." It comes to that. Both that which is extremely good and extremely bad meet at one point, one day or the other;  therefore, God should be considered to be present even in an expert trickster."

Tejas tejasvinam aham: "Among people who have great grace, power and energy in them, that energy, glory and varchas (radiance in one's face arising out of spiritual awakening), comes from Me." Jayo'smi vyavasayo'smi: "I am victory. Wherever there is success and victory, it is Me that brings out victory and success; and all activity that leads to success – vyavasaya – is Me only." Sattvam sattvavatam aham: "I am the sattva in those people endowed with modesty, calmness, sobriety, intelligence, and goodness."

Vrishninam vasudevo'smi (10.37): "Among the Vrishnis, I am Krishna." The Vrishnis are a kind of clan; the Yadava clan is called the Vrishni clan, of which Krishna was their leader. Vasudeva is Sri Krishna himself. Here the Supreme Being refers to Vasudeva as Sri Krishna – a leader and the best among the Yadavas. Pandavanam dhananjayah: "Among the Pandavas, I am Arjuna." He doesn't say "I am Yudhishthira" even though Yudhishthira is supposed to be the most virtuous, because extremely virtuous people are not useful. They create trouble. And so Sri Krishna is Arjuna, who is moderate. Muninam apy aham vyasah: "Among munis, great saints and sages, I am Krishna Dvaipayana Vyasa. The great master, the omniscient one, who wrote the Mahabharata, the Brahma Sutras and the Puranas and classified the Vedas, that great being is Myself.” Kavinam usana kavih: "Among political experts, the leaders of ethical and moral principles in political science, and very wise ones in administration, I am Usana – Sukracharya."

Dando damayatam asmi (10.38): "Among restraining forces, punishment am I." Nitir asmi jigishtam: "I am polite behaviour in people who want to win success." Whenever we want to win victory, we must be polite in our behaviour – sama. This is the first method that we have to adopt. The other three – dana, bheda, danda – should come afterwards. Niti, or proper behaviour in  administrative and diplomatic ability, should be regarded as Myself because it is the best way of winning victory." Maunam caivasmi guhyanam: "I am the silence of secrets. All secrets merge into pure silence. You don't say anything, you don't think anything, you just 'Be' yourself. That kind of spiritual inwardness, which is called silence, is Myself." Jnanam jnanavatam aham: "I am the wisdom of all those who are wise."

Yac capi sarva-bhutanam bijam tad aham arjuna (10.39): "Whatever be there in this creation – wherever it be, in whatever form – the seed of it is Me; it arises from Me." Na tad asti vina yat syan maya bhutam characharam: "Without Me, nothing can come into being. Neither the moving nor the non-moving – sthavara jangama – nothing can come into being without Me. Therefore, I am the seed of all."

Nanto'sti mama divyanam vibhutinam parantapa (10.40): "What is the use of talking much, O Arjuna! There is no end to My glories. How long will I go on describing them? I have told you a little bit – an outline of the main principles of My manifestations. I can go on endlessly telling stories of My manifestation. There is no limit, no end to My glories." Esha tuddesatah prokto vibhuter vistaro maya: "I have specially mentioned certain things as examples, because it is not possible to delineate or describe everything in this world of time." Even if we live as long as creation, all the names and glories of God will not be able to be delineated or explained, because the glories of God are infinite. "Wherever there is special excellence, consider Me as present there." Excellence means a special manifestation of ability which ordinarily cannot be considered as possible for people. In the Guinness book, records of exceptional performances can be found. We may say even those are manifestations of God because they are something exceptional, which cannot be done ordinarily. That is why they are entered in the Guinness book. So we can add here: "The Guinness book also is Me."

Yad yad vibhutimat sattvam srimad urjitam eva va, tat tad evavagaccha tvam mama tejo'msasambhavam (10.41): "Wherever there is glory, power, radiance, energy and aura spreading itself around, wherever there is manifestation of prosperity of every kind, high excellence, in that you can consider Me as present."

Athava bahunaitena kim jnatena tavarjuna (10.42): "What is the use of talking more? Why do you want to ask so many questions?" Vishtabhyaham idam kritsnam ekamsena sthito jagat: "In brief I shall tell you: With a little fraction of Myself, I am sustaining the whole cosmos."