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A Study of the Bhagavadgita

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Chapter 11: Beholding God as He Beholds Himself (Continued)

So the Eighth Chapter is quintessentially an answer which the Lord gives to the questions of Arjuna, which briefly I placed before you, that you can read in greater detail in commentaries of the Bhagavadgita. Highly elevated expressions of the religious consciousness are found in the Ninth Chapter. From the Seventh Chapter onwards, as I mentioned, the religious consciousness becomes more and more intensified until it reaches the pinnacle or the apotheosis in the Eleventh Chapter. In the earlier stages, say from the Seventh Chapter onwards until we come to the Ninth, God is always placed on a pedestal of superiority in the heavenly world, as it were. God is a transcendent being, and He seems to be very far from us. He is the creator of the cosmos; therefore, He is above creation, and above us also. So we can imagine the distance between ourselves and God: God is so far, He may take time to reach us. These ideas may also enter our minds because of the psychological distance created by us due to the conception of God being the creator of the cosmos and the cosmos being so vast.

Here in the Eighth Chapter, during the enunciation of the possibility of the soul attaining God after death, the point is that you will reach God only after death, and not when you are alive. This also keeps God at a distance, especially in your practical life. But it is in the Ninth Chapter that God comes down to your level. There is a diminution of the distance between God and man as the Gita proceeds higher and higher, from the Seventh Chapter onwards. God is a transcendent creative principle, the judge of the cosmos, very far from you; you cannot see Him. This idea may enter into you when you reach the Seventh Chapter, where it briefly touches upon the creative process. Even this idea of liberation being possible only after death, and that nothing is possible in this life, may enter into you when you reach the Eighth Chapter.

But in the Ninth Chapter it says God is your friend. You cannot expect a friend to be millions of light-years away. He is very near you. He is a comrade and a well-wisher. He is your bosom friend, alter ego, and He is at your service, as it were, whenever you need Him. In a pendent verse of the Ninth Chapter, a masterstroke is struck in enunciating the meaning of the religious consciousness when it is told that God provides every need of the human being. Ananyāś cintayanto māṁ ye janāḥ paryupāsate, teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ yogakṣemaṁ vahāmy aham (Gita 9.22). The great promise is made by God: "Whoever contemplates Me undividedly without any other thought in the mind, absorbing the mind in the thought of God only, such a person will lack nothing." Everything is at your fingertips. All commodities will be thrown at you.

I heard an interesting story about this. There was a Brahmin priest who was very fond of this verse. He said, "Oh, I have no problem now. I am a devotee of God. God has promised. See the promise: 'Whenever you think of Me undividedly, I shall be at your service, and all your needs will be supplied to you.' When the demand comes, the supply also comes." He was a poor fellow. He was living on alms, begging, and every day he would go from house to house and collect a little rice and some grains, and maintain his wife and children. Yet he was satisfied. "After all, God is kind to me. He has given me all that I want. What do I want, except a little food that He has given me in the form of alms?" Even with that wretched life, he was satisfied. He attributed it to the grace of God.

But one day it so happened, alms would not come. He went all places; nobody gave anything. He came back in the evening and said, "I have got nothing." His children were crying. They were starving. They said, "Papa, give us some food." But what food? There was no food. The mother also said, "Okay, all right." The next day also this happened. It was terrible. He came back with nothing in the evening of the third day also, and they were dying, that's all. Starvation. He got annoyed. "This promise is not a real promise! I thought God is kind and He would keep His promise, but He has not." In those days, scriptures were written on palm leaves. In anger he took a nail and struck that verse, tearing it. "We are dying in spite of our prayer to God." He threw it down, and ran from the house. He did not want to sit there and hear the cry of his little children, who were almost dying.

After a few minutes of the departure of this old man in wrath, some boy suddenly came with a big bag on his back, threw it on the veranda of the house and yelled to the mother, "Here are the rations for you." She came out. He was bleeding from the tongue. She asked, "What is the matter?" "Your husband has sent all these grains." "Why are you bleeding?" "Oh, I came a little late. He was so angry with me, he cut my tongue," he said. "Oh what an idiot! He is so bad. How can he tear your tongue like that? Poor boy!" She cursed her husband. The boy vanished.

After some time the Brahmin came home, and she said, "Are you a fool? Have you no sense? You sent some grains, rice and dahl, etc., with a boy, and you tore his tongue because he was a little late." He was flabbergasted. He said, "I have not sent any grain. I have not seen any boy. I have not torn the tongue of any person." "But I saw him. Here are the grains," said the mother. The old man closed his eyes for a few minutes and understood what it could be. He wept. And it appears he actually touched the feet of his wife, saying, "You are more blessed than I because you had darshan of God Himself." Well, this is the story of this great verse: ananyāś cintayanto māṁ ye janāḥ paryupāsate, teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ yogakṣemaṁ vahāmy aham. God is at your beck and call, as it were.

In certain instances of the lives of saints, in Maharashtra especially, we have anecdotes of someone suddenly coming in the nick of time and working as a servant boy of the particular saint. The Divine Will itself manifested in the case of Eknath or Namdev in the form of a little working boy called Sri Kandiya. All the miracles of this world are the workings of God only. If you have the blessing of a cup of tea in the morning, you must remember that God has willed it; otherwise, you would not get it. You would not get even a cup of milk or tea if God has not willed it. You should not imagine that you have money in your pocket, and therefore you purchased it. You will not have any money in the pocket, and you cannot purchase anything like that; you cannot even lift your finger unless the Central Will operates, let alone anything else.

Such consoling message of the nearness of God, friendship of God, readiness of God to be of assistance to you at any moment is delineated in the Ninth Chapter, whose details we cannot entertain just now due to the paucity of time. I am moving rapidly, as I mentioned to you, to complete the whole Gita, and you can read commentaries to know what the substance of the Ninth Chapter is.

In the Tenth Chapter, God comes nearer. He is not merely ready to come to you whenever you want; He is already there all around you in some form or the other, in excellences of all types. Yad yad vibhūtimat sattvaṁ śrīmad ūrjitam eva vā, tat tad evāvagaccha tvaṁ mama tejoṁśasaṁbhavam (Gita 10.41). Whenever you find excellence of any kind – it may be even a whirlwind, a tornado, a heavy downpour or a flood, anything that is extraordinary – you must consider that the finger of God is operating there. If you find tremendous power, great strength, agility, knowledge, goodness of an extremely lofty type anywhere, you must see the divinity there. "Even in a lion I am present," He says. The king of the jungle has an element of divinity, and so he rules. Even a supreme administrator of a country is supposed to be imbibed with some element of God; otherwise, he cannot control the nation. That element of super-individuality, which is actually the meaning of divinity, is present in all administrators, kings, rulers, presidents, or whatever they are called. So is the case with anything in this world. Wherever there is excellence of any kind – great scholarship, great oration, great capacity to write, great poetry, great art, great painting, great music, great power, great authority, great ability of any kind – God is operating.

Various instances of this super-excellence are enumerated in the Tenth Chapter. God is here itself. You can see God in front of you in the beauty of the tender leaves of the tree, in the mellifluous flow of the Ganga, in the majesty of the Himalayas, in the brilliance of the Sun, in the blueness of the sky; everywhere you can see God. The very earth that supports you is God manifest. The very breath that you breathe is His blessing.

With these consoling messages, the Gita comes nearer and nearer to us in its message of divinity and Godliness. It is in the Eleventh Chapter that God becomes only God, and there is nothing but God. Up to this time you have heard so many things, and you know what these things are. So much instruction – do this, don't do that; this must be done, this must not be done; God has created the world; there is adhyatma, adhibhuta, adhideva; there are individuals, psychological function, society, and things in objective nature. So many things you have heard. Now everything is brought to a close, as it were. The Director of the drama winds up His play, and absorbs everything into Himself.

Arjuna poses a question at the beginning of the Eleventh Chapter. "Wondrous is this teaching, my Lord. You have made me immensely happy when you said mattaḥ parataraṁ nānyat kiṁcid asti (Gita 7.7): 'Nothing outside me can exist.' The absoluteness of God does not permit anything external to Him. Externality delimits God's existence, and He would become a finite person if there were external things. The superiority and absoluteness, the infinitude, the spacelessness and timelessness of God precludes any kind of outsideness in God's existence. This is what I have heard from you. Is it possible to have a vision of this Great Being? Am I blessed to behold this great Universal Reality with my eyes?" This is a queer question for a mortal to put before the Almighty Master.

And the kindhearted teacher says, "You can, but you cannot behold the Cosmic Reality with your two eyes which are meant only for sensory operations, and which always externalise objects and tell you that all things are outside. With these eyes, you cannot have the vision of the Almighty. This Infinite Being can be beheld only by a consciousness that is within. The eye of consciousness can behold it."

Divyaṁ dadāmi te cakṣuḥ (Gita 11.8). "A divine eye is bestowed upon you here, by My grace." The divine eye is not this kind of eye, but an eye of the soul itself. The soul alone can behold the Universal Soul. These sense organs – eye, ear, and so on – cannot. You cannot see God, touch Him, smell Him, or have any sense contact with Him because sensory operations are externalised actions in space and time. Spaceless and timeless existence cannot be contacted. It is not a contact at all. The soul is of the nature of the Absolute, made in the image of God, as they say, and can behold God. The soul alone can behold God, not any apparatus of this body.

So the Master says, "I shall bestow upon you a rare opportunity of having the power to visualise this Supreme inclusiveness, the interconnectedness of all things, where everything is everywhere. God is everywhere; everything is everywhere. All things of this world and the other world, of all the realms of creation – heaven and earth and hell, everything you can find – is interconnected in this cosmic timeless infusion of the reality of all existences." Suddenly there was a flash, the Gita says. What kind of flash was it? It was not the flash of light that you can see with your eyes. It was not the sunlight that you see. You cannot open your eyes and look at the Sun, but thousands of Suns arose simultaneously in the horizon, as it were. Imagine what that would be like. That kind of light flashed before Arjuna.

Divi sūryasahastrasya bhaved yugapad utthitā, yadi bhāḥ sadṛśī sā syād bhāsas tasya mahātmanaḥ (Gita 11.12). Na tatra sūryo bhāti (Katha 2.2.15), says the Upanishad. The Sun is like darkness, like a firefly, as it were. The light of the Sun is actually virtual darkness before that light. Na tatra sūryo bhāti: The moon and the stars and fire will not shine there.

Na candra-tārakam, nemā vidyuto bhānti, kuto'yam agniḥ: tam eva bhāntam anubhāti sarvaṁ tasya bhāsā sarvam idaṁ vibhāti (Katha 2.2.15). All the lights of this world are reflections, perhaps distorted reflections, of the Almighty Light. That light shone before Arjuna, whose soul was shaken up completely. The personality broke, as it were, and this shattering which Arjuna felt before this incomparable majesty of the Almighty made him sing prayers, which are incomparable in themselves.

When you are in the state of ecstasy, you do not know what you are speaking. When you are angry, you also do not know, and say anything that you like. But much more is the difficulty you feel in ecstasy. The mouth shuts and the tongue ceases to operate, and if you say anything, you do not know what you are saying, because your words at that time of divine ecstasy are of divine origin. The word that was God, as it were, manifested itself through the prayers, the hymns, the psalms of the great devotee whose soul opened itself completely before the Almighty Being, and long verses of an intricate nature of beauty and linguistic excellence form the major part of the Eleventh Chapter of the Gita.

Can you also behold that? Why should Arjuna alone be blessed with that greatness? Why not you, or I, or anybody else? Arjuna is blessed, yes. You are also blessed – or anybody. But – there is a great 'but'. Na veda yajñādhyayanair na dānaiḥ na ca kriyābhir na tapobhir ugraiḥ, evaṁrūpaḥ śakya (Gita 11.48). Any amount of human effort is inadequate for this purpose. 'Human' – after all, your effort is human; that is the only difficulty. You are a person, and that is divinity; it is a Super-person. You are a mortal; that is immortal. You are located in one place; it is everywhere. How would a localised, mortal individual with the frail faculties of sense organs expect to visualise that cosmic inclusiveness?

Therefore, the Gita says no amount of sacrifice, yajna, worship, prayer, study, will be of any avail: na veda yajñādhyayanair na dānaiḥ na ca kriyābhir na tapa. Who will pray? Even intense austerity is not of any utility. You are thinking that you are doing austerity. The whole point in our spiritual practice is we do not give up the idea that we are doing the practice: I do prayer, I study the Bible, I study the Gita, I study the Ramayana, I worship in the church, I worship in the temple, I do tapasya, I observe fasting, I did not sleep yesterday. How many times this 'I' comes in! This 'I' will prevent the Supreme I from descending. There is a necessity for the complete abolition of personality before the mighty God's coming. This is the reason why it is said that ordinary sadhanas that are motivated by personality consciousness, or agency in action, even if it be religious, will not suffice. A dedication of oneself to God is necessary. This word 'bhakti' is used here, implying ardent longing from the deepest soul of the devotee.

'Ardour' is the word also used in a sutra, an aphorism of Patanjali's Yoga. Tīvra saṁvegānām āsannaḥ (YS 1.21): Whoever's ardour is intense, intensely intense, or threefold intense, four times, nine times intense – if the ardour for God is nine times intense, God will be immediately present before you. This is why the Gita says ordinary effort is not sufficient. This kind of vision is not bequeathed to ordinary people, whose personality asserts its egoism and confirms that it exists again and again. When God comes, man cannot stand before Him. He has to get absorbed in His mighty radiance. And as long as you stand outside as a person looking at God, you will not see the real God because the God you look at becomes an object and He becomes an individual in space and time, and it will look like a mountain or a river or a sky. Nothing of the kind is possible because the soul, which has descended from God Himself, has to go to God. That which is an evolute of God's existence must return to the original source, and it can know God only when it has become God or, rather, entered into God's being, because the effect has to enter into the cause. As long as the effect is outside the cause, it cannot know that its relation to the cause is internal. It always feels that it is outside. God is the material as well as the instrumental cause of creation, it is said. He is not creating the world like a potter manufacturing pots out of clay or mud. There is no mud before God. There is no wood, no steel, no cement. Nothing of the kind is before God to create this world. He created out of the abundance of His existence.

Thus, the superabundance of God itself manifests as this cosmos, including yourself, myself. Therefore, this abundance that has manifested itself as this outside universe should revert and recede into the cause, so that the soul that has come from God enters into God and beholds God as He beholds Himself. This is the great, wondrous conclusion of the message of the Gita in the Eleventh Chapter.