by Swami Krishnananda
Reference was made in the Fourteenth Chapter of the Gita to the three properties of Prakriti known as the gunas – sattva, rajas and tamas. It is on the basis of this distinction of the three properties of Prakriti manifested both cosmically and individually that in the Fifteenth Chapter a further distinction was drawn among Kshara, Akshara, and Purushottama. In a way, this distinction is comparable to the difference that we noticed earlier among adhyatma, adhibhuta and adhideva. Adhyatma is comparable with the Akshara Purusha, adhibhuta with the Kshara Purusha, and adhideva with the Purushottama.
Dvāv imau puruṣau loke kṣaraś cākṣara eva ca, kṣaraḥ sarvāṇi bhūtāni kūṭasthokṣara ucyate (Gita 15.16); uttamaḥ puruṣas tv anyaḥ paramātmety udāhṛtaḥ, yo lokatrayam āviśya bibharty avyaya īśvaraḥ (Gita 15.17). The perishable is the adhibhuta; it is the Kshara Prakriti. The tamasic nature, which is perishable and is visible to us in the form of the objective universe, is what is apprehended in perception and cognition by the Akshara, which is the consciousness that beholds and knows all things. The consciousness that is responsible for the awareness of anything in this world is considered as imperishable in comparison with everything that changes in the world in the process of evolution – namely, Kshara.
That which changes is known by something which itself cannot change. The evolutionary process is, of course, a continuous movement, a fluxation in time; therefore, it is subject to transmutation from moment to moment. In this sense, the entire universe of objective perception can be regarded as Kshara, transitory, perishable. But one who is aware of it is not perishable because that which is perishable cannot know the perishable by itself. Movement cannot know movement. There must be something which does not move and does not change in order that movement and change can be cognised and become objects of one's perceptual awareness.
But there is something above both the perceiver and the perceived. As you have noticed in our earlier studies, the perceiver, the subject, the individualised consciousness – Akshara Purusha, so-called here in this context – is also related in some way to the Kshara Prakriti. This relation has been explained in the terminology of the Sankhya and the Vedanta as the adhideva, indivisible consciousness, which itself cannot be cognised. That which is responsible for real cognition of things itself is not cognisable. "Who can know the knower?" says the Upanishad. There is a transference of values taking place between the subject and the object at the time of perception, and a peculiar twofold modification takes place, called vritti vyapti and phala vyapti in the terminology of Vedantic epistemology.
In perception of an object, the mind takes an important part. The mind is cast in the mould of the object of cognition at the time of the knowledge of the object. That is to say, the mind takes the form of the very thing which it is supposed to know. But the mind, being a rarefied form of the gunas of Prakriti and Prakriti being not conscious at all – it is unconscious activity – cannot by itself, of its own accord, independently, know anything. The mould can take the shape of the thing that is cast into it – the crucible can assume the shape or the form of that which is poured into it – but it cannot know that such an event has taken place. Knowledge is a different factor altogether.
So in perception, it is not only necessary for the mind to assume a formation, it also has to know that such a formation has taken place. The objectivity or the objectness has to become a content of awareness in the subject. This awareness is a contribution that is made by the consciousness inside. This procedure adopted by consciousness in assisting the activity of the mind in perception is called phala vyapti.
Thus, there is a consciousness of a form in the perception of an object. The form is the particularity that is the outcome of the shape that the mind has taken in enveloping that particular form, and consciousness of it is the effect of the Atman itself participating in a way through certain degrees of its descent in the work of the mind. This takes place both cosmically and individually. We may say, for the time being, these terms Kshara, Akshara and Purushottama used in the Fifteenth Chapter of the Gita try to blend the cosmic and the individual aspects in a single grasp of vision. The Kshara is cognised by the Akshara, the perceiver becomes aware of the object. The perceiver stands distinguished from the object in the act of perception. You do not become the object when you know the object, as you know very well. It stands outside you, due to which it is that you develop certain psychological reactions in respect of that object. These reactions are like and dislike.
If the objects were not standing outside the perceiver in space and time, these vrittis or psychoses of like and dislike would not have arisen in the mind. But it is also not true that the object is entirely outside the perceiving subject. There is a double factor involved in the process of perception. If the object is entirely cut off from the area of the operation of the subject, there would be no occasion for the subject to know that the object exists at all because already it is assumed that the object is severed from its relation to the subject. There has to be some kind of internal relation between the subjective consciousness – the perceiving Akshara – and the perceived Kshara. If this were not there, there would be no perception; nobody will even know that there is such a thing called the Kshara Prakriti.
Now, knowledge, empirically speaking, is of this dual character. That is to say, the object has to stand outside in space and time for the purpose of its being known at all; at the same time, it should not really be organically disconnected from the subject. This intriguing situation is created by the action of the adhideva hanging, as it were, between the subjective side and the objective side which, on the one hand, being uncognisable in itself, creates the sense of separation between the subject and the object and, on the other hand, being entirely responsible for the perception of the object, is unavoidable in any act of perception. The unavoidable thing is also the invisible thing.
So you are caught up in a peculiar situation of difficulty. This difficulty is what is known as samsara, involvement in a peculiar tangle from which you cannot easily extricate yourself, this tangle being the expectation of the object to be always outside you in order that you may possess it or not possess it; on the other hand, you are inwardly longing to have assistance of something, without which this perception would not be possible.
Purushottama is supreme. Adhideva is the linking consciousness which is the transcendent essence between every degree of subject-object relation. There are different degrees of this relation in the cosmic evolutionary process, and the relater – namely, the subjective side – and the objective side stand totally cut off in the lowest level of experience, especially in the physical world where you and I do not seem to have any connection whatsoever. The object outside – the thing that you have, anything in this world – does not seem to have any vital, organic relation to you. That is the lowest level to which consciousness has descended by its utter segregation from the objective world. But as experience rises in its dimension through meditational techniques, the adhideva, which is invisible, becomes more and more perceptible, tangible and experienceable, so that the rise from the lower levels to the higher will also be a diminution of the distance that appears to be there between the subject and the object, so that in the highest state the adhideva engulfs both the subjective side and the objective side and there is no one perceiving anything.
Yad vai tan na paśyati, paśyan vai tan na paśyati (Brihad. 4.3.23): Seeing, you do not see; knowing, you do not know; being, you do not have any consciousness of being in that state where the seer merges into the object on account of the absorption of both the sides into the adhideva, the Universal Consciousness. This is something that is to be considered as the import of this marvellous verse – a hard nut to crack for many of the commentators on the Gita. Dvāv imau puruṣau loke kṣaraś cākṣara eva ca, kṣaraḥ sarvāṇi bhūtāni kūṭasthokṣara ucyate; uttamaḥ puruṣas tv anyaḥ paramātmety udāhṛtaḥ, yo lokatrayam āviśya bibharty avyaya īśvaraḥ. These two verses are something like mantras that are repeated by every seeker. Thus, the concluding verse of the Fifteenth Chapter says whoever knows this secret is free forever.
These three gunas pursue us wherever we go, perhaps till the end of the Eighteenth Chapter. This subject started from the Thirteenth Chapter, where mention was made of Prakriti and its three gunas, Purusha, and Yoga.
In the Fourteenth Chapter we were told that the three gunas of Prakriti are responsible for every kind of experience. There are three things, we are told – sattva, rajas and tamas – and the import of their action has been in a more cosmological fashion described in the Fifteenth Chapter. It is in the Sixteenth that we land on a revelation which seems to present before us the truth that there are no three things, as we have been told up to this time. There seems to be only two things: the positive and the negative forces. This is the subject of the Sixteenth Chapter: the positivity and the negativity of experience. Daiva asura sampat is the terminology used here. The divine and the undivine qualities act and react upon each other throughout creation, right from the highest to the lowest level. The three gunas manipulate themselves and operate in such a way that they seem to be capable of acting as only two forces in the universe.
Dvau bhūtasargau lokesmin daiva āsura eva ca (Gita 16.6): Creativity is of two kinds: divine and undivine. There can be a divine creativity and also an undivine creativity. You can manufacture demons or you can manufacture gods, if you so like. Both these are in your hands. But how is it that you are capable of manufacturing two contraries? These are explainable in terms of what you already know as the centripetal and centrifugal forces, as they are called. The forces that tend towards the centre of anything are called centripetal forces. From the periphery or the circumference they gravitate towards the centre, try to become one with the centre. This force that gravitates towards the centre of anything is known as the centripetal force. But there are other forces which ramify themselves in a distracted manner from the centre towards the circumference and become rampant everywhere. These are called centrifugal forces. So there are two operations taking place in this world – tending towards the centre and tending away from the centre. The daiva, or the divine, is that which tends towards the centre; the undivine is that which runs away from the centre.
Now, it is up to any one of us to know how we are feeling anything at all in this world. Are you centrifugal or centripetal in your experiences? If you are running after the world and feel very much wretched, miserable and inadequate in your own selves – you feel that you are poor nothings, that the world is everything, so you have to run after the gold and silver and the wealth of the world – if this is your attitude, the centrifugal force is violently working in you. But if you feel the world is not superior to you; that your being is far superior to the becoming of things; that you need not run to things in the world; that the world has to come to you on account of the centrality of the subjectivity in you – if you are a person satisfied in your own self and do not want things to come from outside to satisfy you, then the centripetal force is working in you. The divine daiva sampat is operating in each person when there is satisfaction in one's own self.
Yadṛcchā-lābha-saṁtuṣṭo (Gita 4.22). You never make complaints, and you never say you want something. You have a feeling, a conviction that things are perfectly all right in the world and there is nothing wrong anywhere. The only thing is you have to adjust yourself to the conditions prevailing in the whole creation because it is said in the Upanishad, yāthātathyato'rthān vyadadhāc chāśvatībhyas samābhyaḥ (Isa 8). The Isavasya mantra tells us that God, when He created the world, seems to have foreseen every necessary change or emendation in the constitution of the creation, and there is no need for the parliament of the cosmos to go on emending things every day or from moment to moment. Even the necessary changes that may be foreseen after centuries or ages in the future have already been preconceived and have been taken care of. That is to say, a spiritual seeker's duty seems to be finally an adaptation of oneself to the circumstances in the cosmos, and not trying to rectify the cosmos. There is no necessity to attempt that impossibility.
Therefore these two forces, the divine and the undivine, are operating both outwardly and inwardly, and the Mahabharata and the Ramayana are epic representations in a dramatic fashion of the war that seems to be taking place, the conflict that is always there between the daiva and the asura, the centripetal and the centrifugal, the divine and the undivine, the good and the bad, light and darkness. Dvau bhūtasargau lokesmin daiva āsura eva ca.
It appears that the seed for this duality or conflict is sown at the time of the creative act itself, as the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, for instance, tells us in a very dramatic fashion. The One willed to be two; that is all. The moment this will has started operating and the One thinks it is two, or the two have actually become manifest, there arises a necessity to bring about a relation between these two. This is the conflict. The conflict of the world is nothing but the conflict of relation between things. The most difficult subject to study in philosophy is the subject of relation – how anything is related to another thing, how the subject is related to the predicate. The subject is related to the predicate; otherwise, there cannot be any kind of logical judgment. But it is also not related to the predicate, on account of which it is dichotomised, and it is necessary for logic to bring them together into an act of cognition, which is deduction.
Thus, at the very beginning when the Will seemed to have taken the shape of a dual consciousness – "May I become many" – the manifold revealed itself only after One had become two. We do not want to go into details of the manifold; two are quite enough for us to create trouble all over in the world. Even if there are only two people in the world, war will take place. It is not necessary for millions to exist in order that there be conflict. Conflict can be there even if there are only two because conflict is the irreconcilability between one thing and another thing, and that thing is precipitating itself into the medley of the manifold that we see in the cosmos. So these two forces seem to have been somehow or other operating right from the beginning of time. We do not know how they started.
The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad tells us there has been a gradual descent of this nature of conflict into grosser and grosser forms until we are here, quarrelling among ourselves in any way whatsoever. In the beginning it is a metaphysical distinction, and not actually a quarrel in the sense of brothers and sisters or soldiers fighting in a field. That has taken place only latterly. In the earlier stages it is a philosophical, conceptual distinction of the subject and the object. This has also been mentioned in the Upanishad. I am digressing a little from the Gita to the Upanishad to elucidate this point. In the earliest of stages, as the Upanishad will tell you, the dual consciousness of One having become two is again consolidated to the consciousness of "I am myself these both". The One convinces itself, after having manifested itself into the two: After all, where are these two? "I myself am A. I myself am B. I am A and B." A is not B, of course; they are two different things according to the law of contradiction, but you cannot know that A is not B unless there is something in you which is neither A nor B. So the consciousness asserted itself, "After all, I am A and B both because I am between A and B – the supreme adhideva prapancha."
There is a gradual descent from the divine origination of this metaphysical duality into the lesser forms of creation through the realms of being – the fourteen realms, as we are told in our Epics and Puranas – until we come to the lowest kingdom of this Earth where that consciousness of there being something between A and B is lost completely, and all we know is that everything is different from everything else. Kali Yuga has come, we say. Kali Yuga is the age of conflict; everything is different from everything else, and nobody likes anybody. Everyone is at loggerheads with everyone else in this Kali Yuga, in which we seem to be somehow sunk. As the scriptures say, some five-and-a-half thousand years or nearly six thousand years have passed in the Kali Yuga, which seems to span four lakhs and thirty-two thousand years. So further descent into conflict may be expected, but before that we will quit this world. We do not want to stay here until the last conflict takes place where each one will abolish the existence of everyone else. That is Kalki Avatara, the Transcendent Being coming in the form of an abolition of both things, subject and object: neither this nor that. God will say, "I don't want this creation at all. I made a mistake." We may perhaps draw this kind of humorous conclusion from the act of Kali which, in a wonderful way, and in a very unpalatable and destructive way, is described in the Epics and Puranas.
So here we have, in the Sixteenth Chapter, the definition of the twofold forces acting in different ways, centripetal and centrifugal, the daiva and the asura sampat. The asura sampat, which is the devilish form it takes when it becomes uncontrollable, is psychologically engendered by certain operations in us, to which a reference is being made towards the end of the chapter. Trividhaṁ narakasyedaṁ dvāraṁ nāśanam ātmanaḥ, kāmaḥ krodhas tathā lobhas tasmād etat trayaṁ tyajet (Gita 16.21): The road to hell is threefold. The undivine nature can take you to the lowest perdition; and its seed is sown in our own hearts. Life and death are both operating in our own selves in a mysterious way, right from the time of our birth from the womb of the mother.
Desire, anger and greed are the sources of trouble in this world: kāmaḥ krodhas tathā lobhas. Intense longing for a thing is kama: "It is impossible to exist without it. I want it, and I want it in any way." This kind of unquenchable thirst or longing for things is kama. And if any obstruction comes in the way of the fulfilment of your desire, you are angry at the source of that obstruction. You want to see the end of it. This is krodha. Therefore, kama and krodha are dual factors operating as a single force of longing. One is longing per se, as it is in itself; the other is the longing itself acting in a different way against that which is derogatory to the fulfilment of the longing.
It appears that gods, demons and men went to Prajapati, the Creator. "Give us some instruction." Prajapati, the great Creator, answered: "Da," he told the gods. "Do you understand what I am saying?" "Yes, we understood." He told the demons "Da", and the demons said, "Yes, we understood what you are saying." He also told human beings, "Da." "Yes, we understood." What is it that they understood?
Three people understood the one sound da in three different ways. The gods understood da to mean damyata, "be self-controlled", because the celestials in heaven are supposed to be engrossed in the pleasures of life. The senses become highly rarefied in heaven. We cannot properly enjoy things in this world because physicality hampers cognition of things to a large extent. The weight of this body and the weight of the object obstruct a real satisfaction taking place in us, whereas in heaven there is no physicality; therefore, there is lightness, buoyancy of spirit, and enjoyment is more intense. Hence, inclination to rejoicing is more in heaven than even on this Earth. So the gods understood, "Yes, he is telling us not to be too engrossed in the joys of the senses – damyata. We understood. You are telling us that we must be self-controlled. We should not enjoy through the senses."
"Do you understand?" Prajapati asked the demons. "Yes. We understand." Demons are always angry. They are ferocious. They kill. They destroy. Their only work is destruction. They do not want anybody else to exist. "What do you understand?" "Dayadhvam: be compassionate. This is what you are telling us. We are very cruel. We understand that you are telling us we must be compassionate." Da means damyata in the case of gods: be self-controlled; but da means dayadhvam, "Be compassionate," in the case of the demons.
What about human beings? "What did you understand?" "We understood 'Datta: give in charity'." Human beings are greedy, they want to possess, and go on accumulating land, property, gold and silver. So human beings understood da to mean give in charity: "Don't be greedy. Give! Give in charity." Be self-controlled, be compassionate, be charitable in nature. These three instructions Prajapati gave to the threefold manifestations of these three gunas: passion, anger and greed. These are the road to hell: trividhaṁ narakasyedaṁ dvāraṁ nāśanam ātmanaḥ, kāmaḥ krodhas tathā lobhas tasmād etat trayaṁ tyajet. We close the Sixteenth Chapter with this, and need not go into further details.
In the Seventeenth Chapter, taking the clue from a verse towards the end of the Sixteenth itself, Arjuna raises a question: "What do you say, my Lord, if people act with intense faith but do not follow the ordinance of the scriptures? Is that attitude all right? Do we follow the scripture always, literally, or is it sometimes all right to follow our own faith? If we believe that something must be done and it should be like this, scripture or no scripture, then should we still follow every word of the scripture, or do you give some concession to all those who act by faith?"
Sri Krishna says, "There are varieties of faith." Trividhā bhavati śraddhā (Gita 17.2): Faith also is not of one kind. Conscience is associated with faith, and everyone does not have the same kind of conscience. In some people conscience pinches, as they say. But in some people the conscience may not pinch. It is dead. If the conscience is dead and they are only automatons looking like human beings but acting like machines, then where is the question of conscience? Does the tiger have a conscience when it rips the bowels of a cow? Poor little thing, it has not done any harm, and the tiger kills it. Where is the conscience of the tiger? Its conscience is in the rudimentary stage. It is through the process of evolutionary ascent that the conscience, which is the root of what you call faith, becomes more and more purified, and we have varieties of consciences even among human beings.
Do we expect every human being to behave in the same way always? Are there not cannibals in the world? Are there not intensely selfish people who mind their business and care a hoot for others? Are there not people of that kind? There are people who are a little better; they will do tit for tat: "If you are good, I am good. If you are bad, I am also bad." That is another type. But there are some people who are always good: "Whatever you say, whatever you do, I shall not change my attitude towards you. I shall always do good to you." This is ethical perfection reaching its logical limits. But then there are people in the world who are saints. They are not merely good people, they are divine persons; they are God-men. So even among human beings there are varieties of consciences and acts of perception and faith.
Commenting on this question, Sri Krishna goes into details of threefold faith in various ways – three kinds of food, three kinds of happiness, three kinds of charity, three kinds of tapas, etc. This threefold distinction is also based on the three gunas of Prakriti. You can, of course, act on faith and conscience; there is no objection to it, but it should be a sattvic conscience, a harmless and purified conscience. It should not be rajasic, and it should not be tamasic. You may say, "This is all right," because you are tamasic in nature, or you may say, "This is all right," because you are intensely distracted in rajas, or your 'all-rightness' may depend on the sattvic preponderance in you. So how do you judge your action? How do you know if an idea that arises in your mind is justifiable or not? How do you know whether it arises from sattva or rajas or tamas?
Wherever tamas is the root of your viewpoint, you will see that you do not consider the consequences of your action. You are somehow or other bent upon doing something. "Heaven may come or hell may come, but I have decided to do that." You do not care for what result will follow from your action. Anubandhaṁ kṣayaṁ hiṁsām (Gita 18.25), etc., are involved in certain actions which are tamasic in nature. In the case of tamas, you consider the improper as proper, and you have decided that it is okay and it has to be done; adamant is your nature. These are the despots, the tyrants, the dictators and whatever you call them, of this world. They simply grab and destroy, and care only of themselves, thinking they are gods and others are devils. This kind of attitude may take possession of you when tamas preponderates. You have made a decision, and there is no duality or wavering in your mind.
But when you are not able to take a decision – this seems to be all right or perhaps the other thing also seems to be all right, and do things with a wavering mind, not knowing which is proper and which is improper, and act in a pendulum-like fashion without coming to any conclusion as to what it is you are expected to achieve through the action – it is a rajasic action.
It should be clear to you that something is good, not because you have decided it in an adamant fashion, but because you have considered the pros and cons of everything. Writers on ethics tell us that the action should be conditioned by at least three or four factors. Firstly, it should not produce a consequence which is worse than the condition in which you are now. The tamasic man does not know what consequence will follow; he will simply go ahead. A little reason, a little intellection and vichara shakti should be employed, by which you are in a position to foresee what would be the result or consequence of that particular deed. The consequence should not be retrograde or harmful either to yourself or to others. It does not mean that it can harm somebody while it is doing good to somebody else. It is not paying Peter and harming Paul. It should be good for both Peter and Paul. Thus, the pros and cons have to be considered before you take any particular step, and the consequence should not be bad, either for you or for others. It is difficult to take such a step, because always you will be in a quandary.
Secondly, the motive behind your doing anything should be justifiable – consequence or no consequence, that is a different thing. Sometimes, by some peculiar act of chance, no consequence will follow, but it is your motive that is important – with what intention you have done it. If the intention is not justifiable, that action is not a good action, in spite of there being no consequence.
The third is, the instruments that you employ for the performance of an action. They must be justifiable means. Your means must be as good as the end. It does not mean the end justifies the means always, that you can do anything for the sake of achieving a particular end. That is the Machiavellian theory, which is not always accepted as ethically or morally proper.
And lastly, the act should engender a beneficial atmosphere around you, and you must become a better person than you were earlier. Who will do any work unless it is going to be for your betterment? Are you such a fool that you go on doing something for nothing? You always expect some betterment of your personality. By doing something, you shall become better tomorrow; otherwise, why are you doing anything? So, ensure that when you do anything, these four factors are there. And there are many other factors also, as the Gita will tell us.
So there are difficulties in actually employing our conscience and our faith unless they are conditioned by the operation of sattva. Very difficult it is to manifest it in ourselves. Mostly, even if we are into sattva, there is a disturbance in the midst of its action by the interference of rajas and tamas. Many a time, when we are intending to do some good deeds, we have some suspicion in our mind: "If I do this, what will I get?" I am going to do a good deed, but subtly some voice will say, "What are you going to get out of it?" Now here rajas comes in, and perhaps a little bit of tamas also. Are you going to do a good thing because it is beneficial to you? Actually, a good deed will be beneficial to you. You need not put a question like that to yourself. A duty is always beneficial; otherwise, it will not be called duty at all.
In this context, various things are explained in great detail in the Seventeenth Chapter: sattvic, rajasic and tamasic food; sattvic, rajasic and tamasic charity; sattvic, rajasic and tamasic mauna; sattvic meditation, sattvic austerity, etc. You can read all these things in detail in a commentary.
Hence, the answer to the question whether it is all right to entirely depend on faith is another way of asking whether your conscience is pure. Bhagavan Sri Krishna's answer is, it is perfectly all right; there is no objection, but be assured that it is sattvic. Your diet should be sattvic; your words should not be barbed, cutting and poison-like; they must be very sweet and sattvic; they should be truthful without being painful; and your joys should be sattvic joys.
Yat tadagre viṣam iva pariṇāmemṛtopamam, tat sukhaṁ sāttvikaṁ proktam (Gita 18.37). We seek pleasures in this world without knowing what kind of pleasure it actually is. We can be happy for various reasons. Sometimes there can be a demonical pleasure in us, there can be a highly distracted rajasic pleasure, or there can be a sattvic pleasure. A pleasure which is sattvic will look very bitter in the beginning. That which is real divine satisfaction will come to you as something not palatable in the beginning. For instance, if you are asked to do japa, mantra japa or purascharana, or sit for an hour chanting mantra of the divine name, or meditate for an hour, you will not take it as a very pleasant exercise. All kinds of excuses come – pain of the body, distraction or tension the mind, other occupations, emotional difficulties, and what not. But if you persist in it by abhyasa, intense practice, you will see a good result. If you want milk and curd you have to tend the cow, and tending the cow is not a very pleasant task; but drinking milk and curd is very pleasant. If you want to harvest wheat, corn or rice from fields, will it suddenly come from the skies? How much hardship is there in it – sowing the seeds, ploughing, protecting it from pests and other things, cutting, and so on. What a great difficulty of the farmer! And then you eat the rice. So anything that is really good has some unpleasantness in the beginning.
But tamasic pleasure is very pleasant in the beginning, and afterwards bitter. You seem to be very elated on account of possessing or gaining something by wrong means. Very happy! When a person gets something by wrong means, the consequence of it is not known. Disturbance is the outcome of any kind of pleasure that comes by wrong means or that comes through the sense organs. Pleasures that are sensory, pleasures that are material and physical, and pleasures that come through means which are not proper are engenders of sorrow one day or the other.
Ye hi saṁsparśajā bhogā duḥkhayonaya eva te, ādyantavantaḥ kaunteya na teṣu ramate budhaḥ (Gita 5.22): All pleasures born of contact of subject and object are wombs of pain. Think for yourself: Have you any pleasure in this world that is not born of contact of yourself with something? All your pleasures and joys in this world are contact-born. Therefore, one day or the other there is bereavement. Either you go, or something goes. If you go, it is bad. If something goes, it is also bad because all the joys you are expecting in this world are born of the union of subject and object. As there cannot be a real union of subject and object on account of their separation in space and time, there also cannot be real happiness in this world. Therefore, pursuing joy in this world is pursuing a phantasmagoria, pursuing a will-o'-the-wisp. Na teṣu ramate budhaḥ (Gita 5.22): A wise one will not hanker after the pleasures of sense organs, and will not employ wrong means to have pleasures in this world.
The whole of the Seventeenth Chapter is of this kind, the description of performances through three media – sattva, rajas and tamas. It is expected that your deeds, your performances, your sadhana, your attitude, your life itself should be conditioned by pure sattva guna, the property of equilibrium, harmony and the goodness of Prakriti.
Oṁ tat sad iti nirdeśo brahmaṇas trividhaḥ smṛtaḥ (Gita 17.23). Supreme Brahman is designated as Om Tat Sat, says the Gita. Om Tat Sat are three terms which are considered as very holy. Whenever we conclude some holy act, we say Om Tat Sat. When we utter that, the work is over, the performance is complete, the holy act has reached its consummation. Om is the inclusiveness of all the vibrations in the cosmos; and, as you know, the whole universe is nothing but a concretisation of vibrations. Forces of motions, vibrations constitute even the stuff of the hardest rock. When you disintegrate even the hardest of subjects or objects in the world, you will find that these objects that are stone-like in substance, weight and quantity will vanish into thin air. They become continuous forces which touch every corner of creation. Everything touches everything else in the world, provided it is reduced to the condition of a force or energy or motion.
Therefore, Om is the cosmic vibration which is identified with the original nada or the supersonic will of God Himself. It should not be called a sound; it is super-sound. And every other sound, every other vibration, every other motion, even in the form of electricity, is the manifestation of this supreme designation of God, Om. Tat is the That-ness of the Absolute. Sat is the This-ness of the Absolute. It is That as well as This – etad vai tat, as the Katha Upanishad will tell us. This verily is That – tat tvam asi. The Thatness is the exteriority, cosmicality, transcendence of the Absolute. God appears to be the supreme extra-cosmic creator to the ordinary empirical perception. Even the Absolute Supreme Brahman looks like an all-pervading supremacy above us. So it looks like a That – bhutatathata, as Mahayana Buddhists call it. It is also This, the very thing that you see before your eyes. Sadbhāve sādhubhāve ca sad ity (Gita 17.26): All this was pure sattva existence in the beginning. Or, Tat and Sat may also mean transcendence and immanence of the Absolute. The immanent character and the transcendent character are represented by the terms Sat and Tat. Tat is the transcendent, Sat is the immanent, and the Om is the inclusiveness of both the transcendent and the immanent. It is a wonderful term, Om Tat Sat. The whole Absolute is in your grip. You have visualised the Absolute as a transcendent creative super-cosmic existence; you have also envisaged this Absolute as immanent in every nook and corner of creation. It is not only far away from you, it is also very near you. It is also everything. Om is the Absolute.
So thus, the concluding verses of the Seventeenth Chapter give you some wonderful definition of the Supreme Reality – Om Tat Sat.