The Spiritual Import of the Mahabharata and the Bhagavadgita
by Swami Krishnananda

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Chapter 5: God is Our Eternal Friend

In our rapid study of the Bhagavadgita, we could observe that there is an inherent defect in the understanding ingrained in human nature by the reply that Bhagavan Sri Krishna gave, as a retort, to the problems raised by Arjuna. This defect, this shortcoming, was also pointed out in the third chapter. The human way of thinking is not necessarily the right way of thinking, though it is accepted as the norm of thinking in the world of human beings. But, unfortunately, the world does not consist only of human beings—a point which man cannot accept due to the egoism of his nature. The ego is self-assertive and proclaims its superiority over the perceptional capacities of others. Do we not always measure everything else with the yardstick of our own way of perceiving and knowing? Everything should be in accordance with our way of thinking—only then do we regard it as right. And, yes, it is true that Arjuna employed this yardstick. He was a human being and he discharged the weapon of human understanding, and comparing the consequences of human activity with the preconditions of the human way of thinking, he projected his arguments.

Bhagavan Sri Krishna was there as a super-personal individual, the one who could think in a different way altogether, far different from the way in which all human beings can think. He was a total Man, ‘M’ capital, the true ‘son of man’, in biblical words, who could think as all human beings and yet go beyond the ken of human knowledge. The structure of the world is not the object of ordinary human perception. This is the theme of the third chapter of the Gita, which we went through in a precise survey last time. The world is made in such a way that it cannot be comprehended by the apparatus of human understanding, and therefore to pass judgment on the consequences that follow from the actions of man in the field of this world would be to go off on a tangent and would not serve the purpose. It would not touch even the border of reality. The nature of the world conditions the effects of human action, as it conditions the effects of any action, for that matter. Every event is inwardly connected to the organic structure of the cosmos, and this structure of the cosmos being the determinant of the rightness or the wrongness of any procedure, a human being who always stands outside the world, regards the world as an object of the senses, would be a bad judge of the circumstances of life. The human being cannot be a good judge because he stands outside the world, and he cannot therefore appreciate satisfactorily the various factors of the universal argument, which is the purpose of nature as a whole. The senses which perceive the world are constitutionally involved in the objective structure of things. That is the reason why we cannot know things as they are.

This was the great answer which the Bhagavadgita poses before us, who walk like peacocks with the pride of knowledge, and tells us where we actually stand. Yes, this is a great revelation indeed—that the world is involved in our perceptions and vice versa, and therefore no valuation can be acceptable in the end if it is purely individualistic, notional and limited to a single observer of things. Here we have the central philosophy of the third chapter of the Bhagavadgita. I mention these few words only a kind of recapitulation of what we observed in the last chapter.

All this is beautiful, yes, but who is to tell the senses that this is the state of affairs? Who is to give instruction to the mind that its perceptions and cognitions are erroneous? The teacher is absent, because the so-called teacher is the individual himself, and he is himself involved in the mistake that is committed in perception. The perceiver is involved in the perception, and if the perception is erroneous, and even in this erroneous perception the perceiver is also included, there would be no chance of enlightenment.

A question arises—what is going to be our fate? Who is to awaken us from the sleep of this ignorance? The Bhagavadgita is again the answer. It is an answer to all our questions in all the stages of their manifestation. There is a subtle power that works throughout the world, which is invisible to the senses and uncognisable by the mind. There is a mysterious presence pervading and enveloping all things, sustaining everything, connecting one thing with another thing and maintaining a balance of relationship among all things. Its manifestation at every juncture of time, at every crucial moment, is the rectifying factor behind every erroneous movement of things. The mysterious descent of this Universal presence into temporal events is what is called the avatara, the Divine Incarnation.

God manifests Himself at all times, and this manifestation is a perpetual process. Divine grace is like the flood of a river or the flow of the oceanic waves that never cease. God never withdraws His grace; He is an unconditional Giver. There is a perpetual flow of charity from the benign hands of the Almighty, and His charity is not merely material. He is not giving something out of Himself—He is giving Himself. The charity that comes from God is not a charity of objects, as is the case with the charity of people—it is a sacrifice of Himself that He makes. A self-abandonment is performed by the great Almighty in the incarnation that He takes, in the blessings that He gives, and in the grace that He bestows.

So there is a great solace for all of us in the midst of the turmoil of life, in the sorrows of our days and the grief through which we are passing every moment of time. Yada yada hi dharmasya glanir bhavati bharata, abhyutthanam adharmasya tadatmanam srjmyaham. Paritranaya sadhunam vinasaya ca duskrtam, dharma-samsthapanarthaya sambhavami yuge yuge is an eternal gospel. This one gospel is enough to keep us rejoicing day and night, completely forgetful of all the apparent sorrows of life. If anything is alive, it is God. Everything is dead without Him. This life force takes effective measures at the proper moment, whenever there is a conflict of forces. This conflict of power is the yuga. It has various connotations and denotations. Any kind of friction is a yuga, and one power colliding with another power is a yugasandhi. It may be of the yugas known as krita, dvapara, treta and kali, the well known classifications of time measurement, or it may be any other type of sandhi or transitional period.

It is in the period of transition, which works like anarchy, that we find ourselves at a loss; where our brains do not function, intellects are not adequate to the purpose, and we feel totally out of gear. Our efforts fail when we are in a period of transition, when we are neither here nor there. At that moment it is that the Universal power reveals itself as the avatara, the Incarnation. The divine hand is the mysterious aid that comes unasked. That is the peculiarity of God’s grace; we do not ask for it—it comes unasked. While people grudgingly give some charity when asked, God gives abundantly even when not asked, because He is omniscient. He knows the secret and the needs of the world and the necessity of the whole cosmos. There is a complete evolution of forces, as it were, throughout the universe, whenever there is any difficulty at any point in space or in time.

Every event is felt everywhere in the cosmos, just as a little prick on the sole of our foot is felt throughout our body, due to the connectedness of the system. This secret is to be known, and whoever knows this is not reborn into this world, we are assured. Janma karma ca me divyam evam yo vetti tattvatah, tyaktva deham punar janma naiti mam eti. We will not be reborn into this world of suffering, mrityu loka, having known this secret of the perpetual manifestation, incarnation of divinity in this world. Having known this, we become assured of a perpetual friend with us. We are not lost souls; we are not orphans, as many a time we feel in this world of wilderness. It may look that we have no succour in this world of various types of sorrow, but we have a friend who is always ready to help us in our needs. He is a friend who will never forget us, though we forget Him. We perpetually ignore His existence, deny it in every act of our perception, assert ourselves arrogantly, negate His very existence and try to blot Him out of the picture. This is the gratitude we show to God for the blessings that He bestows upon us. What a state of affairs, what a pity. But God is immeasurably kind; even million of mothers will not equal one God. Such is the compassion that God has upon people. Our insults upon Him are not taken seriously, and our denial of Him is not punished. Always, like the tree that gives fruit even if it is struck with an axe, like nature as a whole which fills us with bounty in spite of our disregard for its laws, God helps us.

Such is the glorious message that is inherently present in the fourth chapter of the Bhagavadgita. When we are awakened to this fact, we are blessed not merely with knowledge, but also with a power that is not of this world. What are the blessings that this yoga of meditation and awakening into God-consciousness brings us? The blessings are these: equanimity of perception (samatva), dexterity in action (karmasukaushalam) and the capacity to see that which is between us and the world, that which works secretly in the midst of visible things, unknown and undiscovered.

Yoga-sannyasta-karmanam jnana-sanchinna-samsayam, atma-vantam na karmani nibadhnanti dhananajaya. This is the final touchstone of the grand message of the fourth chapter. One who has renounced by yoga and dispelled all doubts by jnana and is possessed of the Self—such a person is not bound by action. This is a difficult passage, but it has a profound meaning. The renunciation that we practice should be an outcome of yoga, and not a result of frustration or weak-heartedness, a cowardly attitude, or the ‘sour grape attitude’, as they call it. The renunciation that the Bhagavadgita speaks of is an automatic consequence of yoga. That is why a person who is in this state is referred to as yoga sannyasa dharma. Actions are renounced by establishing oneself in yoga. The type of renunciation of action that is referred to here as a result of one’s steadfastness in yoga is not the abandonment of the form of the action as such, but the spirit of the action. Action is an attitude and not the form that the movements of the limbs of our body take. The renunciation of action, as the result of steadfastness in yoga, is nothing but the ability to rise above the very consciousness of one’s doership in anything in this world.

God is the doer of all things. His hands operate through every individual. As we are told again, all heads are His heads, all eyes are His eyes, all hands are His hands. He walks through all the legs, thinks through all the brains, sees through all the eyes and performs actions through all the hands. So to whom does the credit of action go? Who is the agent of action, who is the performer of deeds? Not I, not you, not he, she or it. It is the rumbling of the powers of the whole cosmos that we call a total action. All action is a total action; there is no such a thing as individual action. When this awakening takes place, there is an automatic renunciation of the attitude of personalistic action, the agency that one feels in regard to oneself in performance of any deed. “I do it and therefore I have to appropriate the fruit thereof.” This is a wrong notion of one’s own self being the sole performer of deeds, contrary to the truth that the whole world is active at the manifestation of any event anywhere. This awakening is yoga-sannyasta-karmanam.

We are filled with doubts in our minds—we can prepare a dictionary of all our doubts—they are endless. Everywhere we have a suspicious attitude about the world, about things, about people, about ourselves, about the past, about the present, and about the future. These doubts cannot be dispelled until knowledge arises, and we know what knowledge means, an insight into which we have been given in the second chapter of the Gita. Knowledge is the knowledge of God ultimately, and as a result, knowledge of the nature of the world in its reality, as mentioned in the third chapter. This is true knowledge, and when we are awakened to this real knowledge, all doubts get dispelled. Then what happens? Atmavantam—we become truly possessed of the Self that we really are.

We are people who have lost ourselves and are in pursuit of things outside. Yes, this is what has happened; we have grasped the world and lost our own selves, and we are in search of our own selves in the things that we are trying to possess in the world. And this Self that has been lost can be possessed truly only when this twofold measure of yoga is taken—the renunciation of the notion of agency in individualised action, and the dispelling of all doubts concerning things, through jnana. These things take us to true self-possessness, where we begin to behold ourselves in all things. “You will see the Self in yourself as also in Me. ” says Sri Krishna. The Self will not only be seen in only yourself or myself, but it will be seen as the principle of truth inherent in the form of the world.

This is a complete philosophy before us, and yoga in a nutshell. When this is properly effected, we live a life of universal renunciation. It is not the renunciation of the monk or the monastic hermit in the social sense; it is the rising above the very consciousness of dualistic perception, and that state, which is called the state of yogayukta, brings further wonderful results.