by Swami Krishnananda
The Bhagavadgita is in eighteen chapters, and the first six chapters devote themselves to an exposition of the various methods of the integration of personality, the bringing together of the various parts of oneself into a concentration, and the transforming of oneself into a complete being rather than a dissipated individuality. We are not whole beings even now. We are psychological wrecks, distracted to the core, ruined in nerves and muscles and drooping in our psychic spirit. We are like a river that is rushing in various directions in the form of rivulets and streams, dashing against various objects and things of the world and thus losing ourselves in the dreary desert or the wilderness of this complicated existence called human life. None of us can be regarded as a whole personality in the true sense of the term, and that is why we are restless and never find peace of mind even for a few minutes continuously. We are agitated every moment of time, and even a wisp of wind can disturb our peace.
All this has been taken into consideration by the great Teacher of the Bhagavadgita. The great Master who propounds this gospel entirely devotes His attention in the first six chapters of the teachings to the techniques of individual integration. From the first chapter until we reach the sixth, which forms one-third of the whole work, we have a graduated teaching, imparted in a systematic manner, for the purpose of bringing into the conscious level the submerged layers of our personality—the emotions, the sentiments, the personal and racial prejudices, whatever it is. There are various kinds of complexes, and adepts in psychology tell us there are personal complexes which get accentuated by cultural complexes, the collective unconscious—whatever the name we give to it. All these are our problem; they are our sorrows, and these sorrows, when they are considered as an ocean inundating us from all sides, are called by the name of samsara.
Now Bhagavan Sri Krishna, the great Teacher of this gospel, taking Arjuna as a specimen of human individuality, gives an eternal gospel for all mankind, for all times, applicable to all conditions of life. In an outline of these teachings from the first chapter onwards until the sixth, we have probed into this a little. The sixth chapter, which sums up this teaching of concentration of the individual for a higher purpose by means of dhyana or meditation, concludes by saying that the aim of this concentrated, integrated person is the visualisation of the great reality in all things. Sarva-bhuta-stham atmanam sarva-bhutani catmani, iksate yoga-yukta-atma sarvatra sama-darsanah. Everything is seen everywhere—that is the great vision towards which we are moving. With this solacing as well as cautious admonition towards the end of the sixth chapter, we are lifted further up into a wider vision of things and introduced to a new vista of life in its depths, not visible outwardly on the surface.
The Teacher tells us, at the commencement of the seventh chapter, that the integration of the personality is not the goal of life. It is the goal as far as our empirical life is concerned; it is a great purpose and a great achievement indeed, but it is an achievement for the purpose of another higher achievement, so that there are layers and layers of ascent from the lower to the higher. The various dissipated energies are collected by way of focusing and concentration in the process of the integration of personality. It is true that by this process we become wholesome individuals, perfectly sane, bright with understanding and reason, humane and very healthy in every sense of the term. Yes, but for what purpose is this achievement of humaneness, total humanity, utter goodness and great charitable feeling? What is the intention behind it? The intention is still further on, and it is not enough if we are merely tuned up in our path to the togetherness of our personality. This concentrated togetherness of ours has to be further tuned up to a larger dimension. The world, the universe, the whole creation is before us. We have to be united not only within ourselves, but also we have to be united further in the direction of our harmony that is to be established with the universe of creation.
This is the subject of the next six chapters, which takes us by surprise, chapter by chapter. We are introduced into greater and greater profundities—truths which are unthinkable, surprising and stirring. To such wonders as these we are introduced, gradually, from the seventh chapter. The great Master tells us, at the commencement of the seventh chapter, that this is not an ordinary job. This is not a practicable affair for the ordinary man of straw, as we call him, or the man on the street, the commercial man, the give-and-take man, the profiteering man, the black-marketing man, the selfish man, the animal man—for him, this is not intended. This is intended for the free man who has left the heritage of his lower status, the vegetable and the animal layers, and becomes really a saint. It is only a truly human that can be regarded as fit for the art of uniting the self with the divine; it is not the animal that suddenly becomes divine. It has to pass through the saint, and each one of us can know to what extent we are saints.
Now, difficult is this path, hard is this task. “The razor’s edge is this,” says the Upanishads. Among millions of people, one may strive to reach perfection in this manner—manushyanam sahasresu kascid yatati siddhaye. How many millions of people are there in the world? And how many are interested in thinking of and attempting to rise above the human level to the diviner realm of experience? Millions are there, but among millions, a mere handful will be really aspiring wholeheartedly, from the bottom of their souls, for perfection. Not merely this, there is a greater diminishment of this percentage. Even among those few souls who are honestly striving for perfection, a very small percentage will really succeed. Most of them will fail on account of the retardation of their attempt by the powers that have been ignored due to the neglect of certain types of personalities, social and individual combined. Certain errors have been committed while encountering the various limits of our body in the assessment of the values of our individuality. We have ignored certain layers of our personalities as if they were unwanted children; we have cast them away, and they are the obstacles. They stand in ambush, jump on us with gorilla warfare and attack us—these are the retarding forces.
So even among those who are really, honestly striving, many may have committed the mistake of not being comprehensive in their approach. Despite their sincerity and enthusiasm, a little error might have crept in. They may have jumped too far, etc. Endless are the reasons that can be given. The reason for this difficulty may be due to some cause from a previous birth or to some other equally obscure reason. Various reasons are there because of these complicated atmospheres in which one finds oneself. So even among the sincerely aspiring souls for perfection, very few will really succeed. Yatatam api siddhanam kascin mam vetti tattvatah: God can be known in reality and truth only by very few. We have only concocted gods in our minds—we have a Hindu God, a Christian God, a Hebrew God, and so on. We have created God; we have manufactured God for our own purposes. These ‘Gods’ can help us to some extent, but ultimately they will leave us in the lurch because they have been manufactured by us; they are our instruments, an effect produced by us. So while our instruments are helpful to us up to a certain limit and measure, they cannot take us to the ultimate aspired goal. In reality, very few can know what to do.
With this very interesting and necessary introductory remark, the great Master proceeds to expound His thesis in the seventh chapter, where we are lifted up from the individual realm of the first six chapters to the universal level of creation and the relationship of the creation to the Creator. We have always a necessity to admit the existence of a Creator, on account of our perceiving such a thing called creation. The Teacher of the Bhagavadgita is a tremendous psychologist. Even a hundred Socrates put together cannot equal this Teacher, so clever in understanding the difficulties of the teaching and the thought of the individual that receives them. The best teacher is that individual or person who starts from the level of the student, and not from his own standpoint. When the teacher speaks, he does not speak what he knows—he speaks what the student needs. That is the proper teacher. Otherwise he vomits what he knows and does not help the students. So the great Teacher of the Bhagavadgita is a master of psychology, and He knows what is to be told at a particular given moment of time. He takes the student step by step, by the hand, from the level of the student’s understanding, and not from the topmost level of the teacher’s experience or realisation.
So, what is our level? It is taken for granted that we have become perfectly human beings, and conceding that we have undergone the training that is required of us in the first six chapters, what is our understanding of the world? It is a simple answer: we see a world outside ourselves, and we are obliged to ask for a Creator of this world. Every scripture speaks of creation. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” says the Bible. The Vedas, Upanishads, and other scriptures tell us that creation is the miraculous performance of God the Creator. Now, our mind is made in such a manner that it can accept truth only in a certain way and not in certain other ways. Our minds are conditioned to certain ways of thinking and understanding, and the knowledge that is to be given to us has to be cast into the mould of these manners of thinking into which we are born. So we have a mould, and everything has to be cast in that mould. Whatever we know is of the character and shape of that mould of our mind and reason.
What is this mould? The mould is there as a world, and there is no doubt about it. Who can deny that there is a world? No one; so that is one mould. We are cast into the mould of accepting, without any argument, that the world exists. And so many other corollaries of mould follow from this central mould of the acceptance of the fact that there is a world outside. If a world is there, it must have been created—it follows. It could not have suddenly jumped in from nowhere. Why should there be a Creator? Why should we accept that the world should have a Creator? Because of the fact that we have a certain mould of thinking that everything has a cause. We are accustomed to the observation of effects proceeding from causes. Everybody has come from somewhere; everything comes from something. We never see something suddenly popping up out of nowhere. Such a thing is unthinkable. Everything has to come from something, and not something coming from nothing—such thinking is illogical. So our trait of logicality can again require us to demand a cause for an effect, inasmuch as the world has come and it exhibits characteristics of transformation. Everything changes in the world, that is what is called evolution. Because of the transient and evolutionary character of things in the world, we have to logically require, call for a cause thereof—an ultimate cause, not merely an immediate cause.
There are many immediate causes. Hydrogen, when combined with oxygen in a certain proportion makes water, but while hydrogen and oxygen are the immediate causes of water, they are not the ultimate causes, because a question be asked as to the cause of hydrogen, and so on. In the same way, we require an ultimate cause, beyond which we cannot think. A causeless cause has to be demanded—that is what we call the Creator. It is a cosmological argument, as we call it in philosophy. For this there is a Creator, and if the Creator is not to be there, we cannot explain this world. Inasmuch as an explanation is necessary, and the mind cannot be quiet without receiving a logical answer to this question of the creation of the world, the Creator has to be accepted. So the Teacher of the Bhagavadgita, who has taken this stand for the psychology of the student, says the world consists of five elements. Bhumir apo’nalo vayuh kham mano buddhir eva ca, ahanakra itiyam me bhinna prakrtir astadha. Apareyam itas tv anyam prakrtim viddhi me param, jiva-bhutam maha-baho yayedam dharyate jagat. Earth, water, fire, air and ether—these are the five gross elements which constitute the physical universe. Beyond these five elements there is the psychic or the intellectual universe, corresponding to the mind, intellect and ego of the individual—manas, buddhi, and ahamkara—mind, intellect and ego. These constitute the eightfold lower field called aparaprakriti, the lower matrix of things. It is called lower because it is subject to transformation. All the five elements change, and so do the mind, intellect and ego—they are all subject to transformation at different moments of time.