The Teachings of the Bhagavadgita
by Swami Krishnananda

Chapter 9: The Majesty of God-Consciousness

From self-discipline, the Bhagavadgita now takes us to the level of God-Consciousness as its discourse proceeds, and especially in the ninth, tenth and eleventh chapters we reach the climax of the description of this state. Here we seem to find God taking possession of everything. Human individuality and human responsibility do not anymore stand as an outside principle when God begins to rule His kingdom. The kingdom of the jiva, the individual, is no more an isolated factor requiring separate attention on the part of the individual. As we noted in earlier stages in the preceding chapters, the Gita concentrated itself upon the training which the individual has to undergo, until there is a complete preparation of oneself for the final onslaught, which is the great yoga of union with the whole cosmos.

We were discussing the other day the implications of the teaching in the eighth chapter. The whole universe is envisaged in various facets as adhidaiva, adhibhuta, adhyatma, adhiyajna etc., all which somehow maintain the position of a transcendent reality. Aksharam brahma paramam – the super-cosmic aspect of the Creator is subtly maintained and the facets of the universe, the adhibhuta, adhyatma and the like mentioned, also seem to give a suggestion that there is a graduated relationship of the individual to all these cosmical levels – which, incidentally, also hinges upon the question of the life of the soul after death.

The peregrination of the individual consciousness through the various stages, which were touched upon in our scheme of cosmological studies, is an interesting part of philosophical studies. Briefly it was told us that the last thought decides the future, and I mentioned that the last thought is not an isolated link but a culmination, a fruit, a maturity, the finality of the total psychological operations of the individual throughout one' s life. So it is not a chronologically disassociated last thought, but a logical development of the entire thought process, fructifying in this total thought. We can describe it only in that way – the total thought, and not one among the many thoughts. This complete thought would be the factor that determines the future of the soul. Whatever one aspires for, that one shall attain to. Yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ tyajaty ante kalevaram, taṁ tam evaiti (Gita 8.6). This is a great theme in the studies of the field of psychology, including abnormal psychology, we may say. The soul is supposed to depart from this world, shedding this body, and move in certain directions towards the destination where its unfulfilled longings can find fulfilment and fructification. The law which governs the universe seems to be so precise, mathematical, and exact in its functions that it does not ignore anyone – it does not set aside the longing of even a single psychological operation. Every thought has to fulfil itself – if not today, at least tomorrow. So there is an automatic action taking place in this computer system of the cosmos, and there is no need for another operator behind it. It is self-operating. And this system seems to be so exact and inexorable that preference seems to be given to the strongest of thoughts and feelings, and the lesser ones receive attention later on, at the proper time and in the proper place.

The Bhagavadgita does not go into great details in this subject, as much as we have in the Upanishads, for instance. There is a brief statement of the exit of the soul. 'The departure of the soul from the body,' is the way we describe things generally, as if we are encaged in this body and we are not this body. As a person may leave his house, we, the real individuals lodged in this tabernacle, leave it one day in order that we may enter a new house which is already constructed for us by the architect who is paid for by God Himself; and already the house is built, the foundation is dug and the entire structure is complete even before we leave this body. Such wondrous mechanism operates in the universe.

But where do we go? – is a crucial question. "Where do I go, and where does anything go?" We will not be taken to that place which we have not desired in our mind, or rather which does not follow as a natural consequence of our thoughts, feelings and actions. The Bhagavadgita will tell us at another place that the consequences of our deeds are not entirely in our hands. And the deed so-called is not merely what we do with our hands and feet, but also what we think and feel and will; all these are actions, perhaps they are real actions. Our deep-seated longings are our actions, more than what our feet do or hands do. And many times our longings are different from the shape taken by our physical activities. Social conditions and many other factors prevent inward longings from manifesting themselves in outward form, and we live a repressed life. But this repression is something like burying a seed in the ground, which will sprout itself forth one day when there is rainfall and a conducive atmosphere is manifest.

Anything can happen to the soul after death. One can be reborn into this world, one can rise to a higher level, a higher region or superior plane of existence, and if we are to follow the trend of the thought given to us in the Upanishad, one can go to heaven and hell also. One can go to Brahmaloka, one can move along the Uttaramarga or Dakshinamarga, the Aksharadipatha – the path of light, or the path of smoke – as the Bhagavadgita puts it. We need not go into minor details of these eschatological studies. The point that we may bear in mind is that we have to be very cautious in thinking, feeling, and willing. We should not be fools when we start thinking through our minds, under the impression that we are masters in this world. No individual can be a supreme master here, because of the very fact of a different type of relationship that seems to obtain between ourselves and the whole creation into which we had a peep when we studied the cosmological processes. But, however, we are given a solacing message in the end – "Whoever contemplates the Supreme Being, God Himself, that soul will enter God." There is no need of exit – that soul, which is in permanent communion with the Supreme Master of the Universe, the Sovereign of the Cosmos, the Absolute, Parabrahma, Ishvar – that consciousness which is in union by yoga with the Eternal Reality will melt into the ocean of existence, here and now. Atra brahma samaśnute(Katha 2.3.14); na tasya prāṇā utkrāmanti (Brihad. 4.4.6): There is no movement of the prana in any external direction to such a soul, and there is no Uttaramarga, Dakshinamarga or any kind of marga – it is a dissolution of the drop in the ocean, there itself, at the very location of it. Such a liberation is called Sadyo-mukti – instantaneous liberation.

Otherwise there is a progressive salvation, a graduated ascent through the paths which are described in the Bhagavadgita and the Upanishads. But God is more than all these things that have been told us. The power of God and the jurisdiction of God's operation is so vast that everything that we have said up to this time seems to pale into almost an airy nothing before the glory, the resplendence, the majesty and omnipresence of the Almighty. Nothing is there outside God, nothing is superior to God, nothing external. The absoluteness of the Infinite Being, who no more remains as an extra-cosmic creator but is an immanent reality, is the theme of the chapters to come, so that we seem to be in a more friendly, parental relation with God than a judicial relation or a very distant, remote, unreachable relation with God.

In the earlier stages it appears that God is far away – infinite is the distance between us and God. Often there is doubt whether it is possible for us at all to come in contact with Him. But this doubt is dispelled when the religious consciousness deepens, and it realises that the very being of God is the being of infinitude, eternity, and therefore there is no distance between the soul and God. He is not an unreachable potentate – the monarch ruling in high heavens, but an immediate presence, such that His presence is inseparable from our deepest self, and His language is spoken by our own inner conscience. The language of the Eternal is the voice of our conscience, and our Atman is Brahman.

The ninth chapter reveals before us the majesty of this deepened religious consciousness. In the earlier stages of religion it appears that the world is ruled by powers – divinities, angels, masters, adepts who are hidden behind the forms and the things of the world. There are many divinities, and every form has a divinity which ensouls that particular body. There is an extreme externality of these divine presences in the widespread expanse of the universe before us – this is the outer reach of the religious consciousness. When we go deeper in our studies and experiences in religion, there is felt an inwardisation of this concept. The presence of these divine powers in the far-fetched distance of the cosmos seems also to be in harmony with the deepest essences of all the jivas, individuals, so that that which is present in distant space has also to be present immediately in the heart of even the thinker himself. Thus the so-called thing-in-itself, which is incapable of contact by phenomenal means, seems to be at the back of the very person who thinks so. Thus God, the distant being, is also the God who is the soul of the very seeking spirit which feels God as a distant being. Thus the inwardisation leads to the universalisation of this concept. God is not merely a distant master, a creator of the universe that is far away from us, He is also not a secretly hidden light within an individual body, but a large presence which occupies all space and all time so that outside it nothing can be – not the universe, not the individual.

Ananyāś cintayanto māṁ ye janāḥ paryupāsate, teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ yogakṣemaṁ vahāmyaham (Gita 9.22): God protects us, and the succour which we receive from God's presence is an immediate consequence that follows from an inward union with Him. This verse that I quoted just now is immensely important in our religious studies because that discloses the deeper relationship that is there between man and God. In fact, the word 'relationship' is a poor word; there is no relationship – they are inseparables. Two birds perching on the same tree – say the Upanishads, say the Veda – these two birds are actually not two different birds. The higher self and the lower self may appear to be two birds sitting on the same tree no doubt, but we know very well that the higher and the lower are not two distinct birds. The lower is included in the higher, and thus the other bird does not stand spatially away from the bird which is the bound soul. But here we have only a symbology of a psychological and logical distinction that seems to be there between man and God. There is no spatial distance, and there is no chronological history of the distance.

There is immediate action following from deep meditation on God – 'immediate' is the word. Timeless is God's existence, and timeless, therefore, is God's action in His operation. Timeless is He because He is also spaceless. Hence, the grace of God is a non-spatial and non-temporal gift. Inasmuch as it is non-temporal, it is instantaneous – just here and now. There is not the time-gap of even a second, because there is no time in God. So when the soul, the seeker, the yogin, the aspirant, the devotee timelessly, spacelessly unites itself with this timeless, spaceless Being, there is a timeless and spaceless consequence that follows. There is an immediate fulfilment of all that is essential; there is a flood of all that one needs. This verse has been understood in many ways by different types of understanding. God provides us with every kind of need and necessity – not even a thousand mothers can equal Him in compassion and in love for us. The mothers of the world are nowhere before this Supreme Parent, because the love that proceeds from God in respect of us is the love that emanates from every corner of the universe. It is not one person like another person. A mother is one person, and even if there are ten-thousand mothers, they are only in some place. But this is a single mother who works from every corner; every nook and cranny, every particle of creation responds when God speaks. Sarvā diśo balim asmai haranti (Chhand. 2.21.4) says the Chhandogya Upanishad. The quarters of the world begin to pour upon us the tribute which God sends to us. A single thought, which is the total surrender of the whole of one's personality to this God-Being, evokes a response which is eternal and non-spatial, and an abundance follows – which the mind of man cannot contain, which the intellect of man cannot describe, and all the treasuries of the world cannot find place to keep – such is the wealth that God can pour upon us. All the lockers in the universe cannot contain this treasure, if God pours upon us this wealth that He has, which is unending, unthinkable, most glorious. Can we find a more solacing, comforting message in any vision than this great verse: ananyāś cintayanto māṁ ye janāḥ paryupāsate, teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ yogakṣemaṁ vahāmyaham: I shall provide you with a cup of tea; I shall give you a spoon of sugar.

There was a Brahmin who was a great devotee of the Bhagavadgita – this is a story which touched me deeply, and perhaps it has a great meaning. He was a great devotee of this verse: ananyāś cintayanto māṁ ye janāḥ paryupāsate, teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ yogakṣemaṁ vahāmyaham. He was so confident of the help that he would receive from the Almighty that he was carefree in life, poverty stricken though he was. Practically, he was living a life of begging from the neighbourhood. Yet he was so confident that he would receive what he wants because of the promise that the Almighty gives in this great ordinance. One day he had nothing to eat; second day he went starving; third day there was nothing to eat, children were crying, the mother in the house was weeping. "Is God dead, is He alive? What is the meaning of your sloka? Throw out this Bhagavadgita," said the old mother. The poor man was flabbergasted, he wept, "Is this proclamation false? There is no truth in this statement?" Down goes the Bhagavadgita – he struck that verse with a nail. Those days, scriptures were written on a palm-leaf, not a printed paper like this. He struck with a nail the verse written on a palm-leaf, tore it up, threw it away and went out in disgust that no God exists. "We are dying and nothing comes – and yet, there is this promise." The old man went; very interesting story for you to hear. He went weeping in the streets. The story goes that one boy came running with a bag of rice on his back and with some rations and many other things on his head – a large hoard – and threw it on the verandah of the house, but his tongue was bleeding. The mother of the house came out and asked, "Who are you? What is it that you are bringing?" "These are the rations sent by your master; the father of the home has sent this – I will go." "Thank you very much, but why are you bleeding? What happened to your tongue?" "Oh," the boy said, "I was a little delayed in bring you these things, and your man was so angry with me that he tore my tongue." "Oh, I see. What a cruel fellow! I did not know this." He vanished – the boy vanished. After the old man came home, the lady was down upon him. "What happened, are you mad? You tore the tongue of that boy because he came a little late?" The old man said, "Which boy? I never sent any boy." Then the lady described the whole story. The old man burst into tears, cried, and then told the lady, "From today, you are my Guru, you had darshan of Lord Krishna; I had not that fortune." Who else could have brought this costly stuff, and this indication of the torn tongue shows that it was nothing but divine dispensation that so grandly operated. God is never unkind, He is never unjust, He is never cruel, He never does harm to anybody – such is God.

There is some sort of message that we seem to receive from the meaning that we can read between the lines in the ninth and the tenth chapters – everywhere He is present, sometimes more pronounced in His manifestations, sometimes not so manifest. Yad yad vibhūtimat sattvaṁ śrīmad ūrjitam eva vā, tat tad evāvagaccha tvaṁ mama tejoṁ’śasaṁbhavam (Gita 10.41): Wherever there is exaltation of any kind, power, knowledge, capacity, whatever it is, a super-normal manifestation of anything in this world, it may be artistic capacity, literature, music, administration, whatever it can be – where there is a super-normal expression of this characteristic or endowment, know thou, I am present there." Not that He is not present anywhere else; this will be seen in the eleventh chapter that He is present even there where He is not pronouncedly present or markedly visible.

We are taken gradually to giddy heights where God's preponderance, superintendence and all-inclusiveness engulfs not merely human individuality and the isolated existence of jivas, but absorbs all of our rules and regulations, predilections, studies, power and knowledge into His bosom, so that He stands unparalleled. There is no second, either above or below or right or left or anywhere. This is the might of God, and there is no one to behold this might except He Himself. It is the Glory of God, beheld by God only, and He sees Himself, He loves Himself; He is what He Is. To this height Arjuna's mind has to be taken, and the minds of every one of us have to be led. Then we shall no more feel a necessity to exist as we are today. The love of this body, the greed after self-justification, this craving of the jivas will no more feel the necessity to receive recognition from anywhere, as a disease would not like to be recognised. This so-called independence of ours can be compared to an illness, like a carbuncle that has grown on the Universal All-Comprehensiveness. Who would justify it? Who would like to maintain it for a long time? This is a disease, but as one can love one's own disease, so one can love one's own ego, this body and everything that is connected with it.

Deluded man, totally oblivious to his glorious goal, foolish in his pursuits, regards himself as all-master in this world, which may carry on and continue for some time until God takes up his rod and tolerates it no more. And there cannot be a greater evil in this world than self-justification. Every other evil follows from this: audacity, tyranny, despotism – all these follow from self-justification. A little bit of long rope is given by God Himself to every one of us, so we may live in our own fool's paradise for the time being and we may rule in the hell that we have created here. That is okay; for some time, enjoy your hell. But when adharma, incomparable adharma which is this egotism of man, goes to heights, to the breaking-point, then God Himself cannot tolerate it anymore. He takes up His cudgels and there is a dissolution of the cosmos. And, when He takes up the reigns of rule in His Hands, the rule in the kingdom of individuals not only does not operate, but powerfully gets communed with this universal rule of the kingdom of the Absolute.

All this is told to Arjuna and he weeps, "Mighty Lord, I cannot understand what You are speaking. I am in a state of consternation, my mind is not working, I do not know where I am standing. You are describing a glory in a manner which my mind, my reason, is not expected to contain or understand. What is this 'might' , this 'glory' , this 'grandeur' , this 'completeness' , this 'absoluteness' – it is possible for me to behold this?" That is the question in the earlier verses of the eleventh chapter. "Who can behold It?" This eye which sees through the microscope or the telescope is not the instrument to see the Almighty. We have but only these eyes, these two eyes. They cannot see that All-being. An integral vision is necessary to behold this integrality of existence. The superficial, phenomenal eye sees diversity everywhere, but distinction between the seer and the seen is not the tool that you can employ in the vision of the Absolute. So the Great Lord says, "You cannot behold this Being, this Mighty Form of Mine, with these two eyes. I shall endow you with a third eye." This third eye is an integral intuition, the total consciousness, the whole of our being welling up into action – the Atman beholding Brahman. That miracle seems to have taken place by some magical action of the Almighty, and we cannot understand how it took place. We have only to accept it; it has been there, it is there, and there is nothing more to say about it.

What did Arjuna see? Well, when we say 'saw' or 'see', we should understand that it is not 'seeing' with these two eyes, because it is already mentioned that the two eyes of man, the mortal eyes, cannot behold the Immortal. He saw a miracle. These sentences we are using are inadequate to the purpose; we are using fragile words of mortal language for describing the characteristics of Immortal Existence. Like a frog in the well describing the ocean – this is how we are describing the Almighty. Whatever be our description, it falls short, badly, from that Mighty, Super-Nature. It is impossible to describe the meaning of the eleventh chapter. It just stands unparalleled in poetic excellence, and an exuberance of philosophic abundance. We have to read it for ourselves; our soul has to read it – not merely our eyes. Vyasa, the great author of the Bhagavadgita, goes into raptures, as it were, in giving a description of this rapturous experience of Arjuna, and poetry is the only way of expressing such miracles and wonders and marvels and majesties. Prose is poor – poetry is supreme here, and the poetry in Sanskrit here goes to its heights. When we are in a state of rapture, we speak anything that we like – any word that comes from us is holy at that time. It is the Divine Word that we speak because we are in ecstasy of Self-possession, God-Possession – it is a Veda that comes from our mouth when God possesses us and we speak at that moment. This great vision is difficult to have because God is 'All' and He cannot tolerate the presence of another 'all' external to Him. There cannot be two kingdoms of God. If we establish our own kingdom here, on earth, vying with the eternal kingdom of the Absolute, then we may rule our kingdom well in the way we are having here in it; but this empire of ours cannot reach that divine empire.

Na vedayajñādhyayanair na dānair na ca kriyābhir na tapobhir ugraiḥ, evaṁrūpaḥ śakya ahaṁ nṛloke draṣṭuṁ tvadanyena kurupravīra (Gita 11.48): Not anything that man can do or an individual is capable of, can be considered as adequate for this purpose. What is necessary is the total abnegation of oneself. God does not require anything from us – no prasad or sacrament. Nothing can be offered to God because everything belongs to Him. There is nothing with us because we possess nothing here. What can we offer to Him? Perhaps the last thing that we have is our own individuality, our egoism, our personality, our being. God asks that we may be offered to Him, and not anything that we may have. He does not want a temple to be built for Him, a house of brick and mortar, calling it a chapel or a church. He does not want any offering because all these offerings are not our properties. We are offering to Him what does not belong to us – this is not a charity. But what we consider as our property is ourself only. The last thing that we can part with, the dearest and the nearest of our possessions, that object which we love most, it is our own self – let this love melt into God-love.

Bhaktyā tvananyayā śakya aham evaṁvidho (Gita 11.54): This bhakti, this devotion spoken of here, is not a little lip sympathy that we show to God. It is not a bowing of the head, it is not the folding of the hands or the striking of the cheeks – it is the melting of ourselves in the menstruum of God-Being. We can only speak, but our reason cannot grasp what all this means. Matkarmakṛn matparamo madbhaktaḥ saṅgavarjitaḥ, nirvairaḥ sarva-bhūteṣu yaḥ sa mām eti (Gita 11.55). Again to repeat, ananyāś cintayanto māṁ ye janāḥ paryupāsate, teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ yogakṣemaṁ vahāmyaham. Recite this sloka every day – contemplate its meaning. Nobody can harm us. There is nobody who is not under the subjection of God's rule, and therefore when we are in communion with this Great Master of the World, who can do harm to us? The whole army of God will protect us, provided we are honestly in fraternal relation with Him and we regard Him as All-in-All. In a way, the response from God is proportionate to the response from us in respect of Him. The way in we envisage Him, or contemplate Him, or understand Him, that perhaps is the way in which He will respond. "As you do to Me, so I shall do to you – what you think of Me, that I will think of you – and what you give Me, that I also give you." If we give ourselves, God will give Himself. God does not give any material prosperity, though He can give that also. But when He Himself gives His Own Being, why should we expect any material prosperity? Do we not think that God is more than all matter, all the wealth of all creation? But God will offer Himself only when we offer ourselves to Him – not before. If we offer only a tidbit or tinsel, the response will be of the same type.

Thus it is that the Self-offering of God is an automatic, instantaneous occurrence as a response to the whole-souled offering of ourselves to Him. Here is bhakti reaching its culmination, its logical completion. The word 'bhakti' is not the proper word to describe this condition. It is not jnana, it is not bhakti, it is not yoga – it is every blessed thing. When we love a thing with all our soul, with all our heart, with all our being, we do not know how to describe it in our language. It is not devotion, it is not affection – it is something more than all this. Do not use any words from language; it is something more. Thus is the devotion, thus is the bhakti that is the surrender, that is the yoga and that is what is expected of us here when we reach the supreme culmination of yoga which is the vision of the Absolute in the Vishvarupa. Jñātuṁ draṣṭuṁ ca tattvena praveṣṭuṁ ca parantapa (Gita 11.54): To know It, to visualise It and to enter into It. These are the duties of man, finally. God-realisation is the goal of life. Union with God, entry into God, merging into the Absolute is the final goal of all things everywhere, all beings, living, non-living, visible, invisible.

Thus, yoga is an art of attaining to God-consciousness. The various types of yoga, which are the ways we understand for the purpose of this grand culmination, are described in the twelfth chapter, briefly, later on.