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

Chapter 16: The Essence of Creation is God's Glory

The creation of the world was referred to in the seventh chapter of the Bhagavadgita, indicating that the whole process of evolution is motivated by the will of God. By creation we have generally an idea of substances, things or objects, persons, etc. Tangible things, visible objects and cognisable contents are usually considered by us as contents in creation. But creation is something vaster and more pervasive than can be comprehended by the tangibility of the sense organs. As the teachings of the Gita move forward through the ascending chapters, we are taken further on to the greater subtlety involved in the structure of creation to culminate in the most subtle of all concepts—the Being of God Himself. We commenced with the grossest concept, namely, human society, to recapitulate the entire ground that we have traversed throughout the period of our study. When we think of life, we always think of human society, as frogs think only of frogs, as the old adage goes. To think of the cosmos of the five elements is a larger concept, and it requires a greater stretch of imagination than is available to the common man. For him life is only human beings, or perhaps only a family—that is all the life that he can conceive of. When a person refers to life, he refers to his family, and nothing else can be comprehended within the idea of life. Life is miserable; when speak like this, we mean our family is miserable. Or if we are more sophisticated intelligentsia, we mean humanity is miserable—mankind is in a tragic situation. This is all the view of creation we have with our present stage of understanding.

Further on in the Gita, we were taken to the more psychological implications, which require a more impersonal outlook than the merely family outlook or even the so-called humanitarian outlook. The psychological outlook is superior to the merely human outlook, and from the second chapter onwards we were concerned with the individual propelling constituents that make up what we call the grosser forms of human society. Human beings are psychic entities. They are minds, essentially, and not bodies. They are not fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, as they appear to be, but they are eddies in a psychic ocean. So the springs of action in human society are in the minds of people, and not outwardly in the political governments or in the communities through which people pass and in which they appear to live. Our ideas have to be gradually rarified as we move on further through the ethereal teachings in the chapters of the Bhagavadgita.

So to come to the point, when we reached the seventh chapter, we were taken to a larger concept of creation, above the level of human society and even the individual psyche, namely the cosmos of five elements—earth, water, fire, air and ether. Mostly, people cannot imagine these things. Who thinks of five elements every day? We think only of a little bread and jam, and a cup of tea and a little skirmish and a rubbing of shoulders that we have in our little day-to-day life. These are all the little bits of creation that we can have in our minds. But this wondrous expanse of cosmic elements, which stumps the imagination of even the astronomer and the physicist, is beyond the imagination of ordinary human beings. Such was the idea of creation given to us at the beginning of the seventh chapter, which implied that there is a Creator transcendent to the created universe, who is the regulator and the dispenser of justice. The destinies of people are controlled by the will of this Supreme Being, whose will is creation. The whole process of transmigration, the life after death of the individual, is a progression towards contact with God, whether it is consciously regarded as a movement towards this supreme end or it is merely an unconscious bungling and groping in the darkness, as is the case with many of the ignorant souls, due to which they return to lower births or to the same kind of birth from which they rose up, etc.

The idea of God becomes more and move emphasised as the chapters move forward, while in the earlier chapters it was kept aside for later consideration. The higher concepts come later for contemplation—the lower and gross ones come before. When we reach the ninth chapter, we are brought almost to the point where we can breathe the breath of the presence of God in all creation. The winds of the ocean of Being begin to blow directly on our face, and we are stumbling almost unconsciously on that stupendous aegis of God’s Being. The visualisation has not yet taken place—even an inkling of it seems to be very far away. The mind is kept in tenterhooks; it appears to be catching it but the idea is receding further, as the horizon moves further away as we try to approach it by going in that direction. There appears to be a confidence in the soul of the seeking spirit that God is immanent and capable of approach. But this capability of approach to the Being of God still remains as the ability to catch the horizon—appearing to be there but yet not possible of real contact. There is a spiritual anguish that grows deeper and deeper as the seeker goes higher and higher, and the agony grows more and more incapable of tolerance. The spiritual suffering in a way can be said to be more agonising than the sufferings of the mortal body. The soul’s anguish is incapable of experience and explanation. Only one who has trodden the path can know what it is to have spiritual anguish inside. It is not merely the anguish of a suffering hungry stomach or an aching body—but of an aching soul. That is the condition of Arjuna when he rises into a question as to what this miracle could be, and whether is it possible at all for a person of his character to have a comprehension of this mystery.

Now the creation of God is explained in greater detail, with further emphasis, in the tenth chapter. Not merely do objects and things, persons and visibles constitute what we call creation, but even the relations that exist between things or subsist among objects are the creation of God. Not merely the things, but even the ideas and the thoughts of people are also part of the creation of God. Buddhir jnanam asammohah ksama satyam damah samah, sukham duhkham bhavo’bhvo bhayam cabhayam eva ca. Ahimsa samata tustis tapo danam yaso’yasah, bhavanti bhava bhutanam matta eva prthag-vidhah. Unthinkable are these attributes. Good and bad, right and wrong, beautiful and ugly—everything proceeds from God.

Our idea of creation is not like this, generally speaking. We have our own queer notions of the perfection of God’s creation. Every blessed thing—every Tom, Dick and Harry—cannot be included in this omnibus of God’s creation; that would be a pell-mell idea. We have a system of scientific thinking that acquiesces only to the acceptance of certain particulars which are regarded as necessary to form a perfection we regard as creation. But perfection is not necessarily what we regard as perfect. Our idea of perfection is that which agrees with the present pattern of our mind’s thinking. Whatever we regard as good is that which has some relevance to the requirements of the human mind. If there is no relevance to the aegis of mental requirements of the present set-up of human thinking, then it cannot be regarded as good. Therefore the ethical good or even the metaphysical good, for the matter of that, is a conditional good, and so we expect creation to be of a particular character in order that it may be the creation of God. We do not believe that God creates evil, for instance, but we accept that evil exists. So we have a peculiar dichotomy or duality of philosophical concept in our acceptance of the principle of creation. If evil exists, it must be created by somebody, and if it is not God’s creation, it must be our creation, and we are not prepared to say that it is ours.

Then whose creation is it? We cannot say that it is not there; we cannot say it is there—so we jumble up ideas. The difficulty arises because we have a conditional idea of relevance and meaningfulness in things. Whatever is pleasant is regarded as good, and even our idea of evil is a prejudiced idea. It is not really an acceptable notion, because we are phenomenal beings, which means to say we are limited to the present set-up of space-time relations. And there is relevance, as I mentioned, to the present framework of space-time relation. When anything fits into this framework, we regard it as necessary and acceptable. But when it is does not fit in, somehow or other, to the present set-up of space-time relations—which implies the fitting into our personal individual existence and also society—we regard it as bad, ugly, undesirable, hellish and evil. But the cosmos is a blend of positive and negative forces, whether we like it or not. Our likes are not the criterion for the perfection that creation has to be.

So in this characterisation of the definition of the various principles that go to constitute creation in these verses that I mentioned—buddhir jnanam asammohah, etc.—every blessed thing is mentioned as having a concern with the wholeness of creation. Etam vibhutim yogam ca mama yo vetti tattvatah, so’vikampa yogena yujyate natra samsayah. Only if we are prepared to accept the compatibility of anything and everything into the framework of the totality of creation can our mind be prepared to establish itself in this unshakable yoga, which is called avikampa yoga in this verse. Otherwise we will be established in a shakable yoga, not in an unshakable yoga. We are all shakable yogis, because at any moment we can be blown off by a little logic of somebody else. If another person argues with a more forceful logic, it is enough to pound our entire load of knowledge and we run away. The unshakability of the intellect implies the establishment of the whole understanding in a complete acceptance of every aspect of creation. This is possible only when we are able to fit in properly all the conceivable aspects into the framework of completeness. The whole of creation is to be regarded as an orderly arrangement of values.

First of all, as I have mentioned, creation does not consist merely of human beings. This is an idea that we have to give up, gradually. Secondly, it does not consist even of things, objects, substances or even the five elements—it consists of relations. The whole universe is nothing but a set-up of relations, and not of things or objects. There is an interconnectedness of values, so that we may say that the world is a value, finally, and not even a scientific relation. It is not a world of human beings; it is not a world of things, objects and physical elements; not even a world of conceivable physical scientific relationships, but of values. Truth, goodness and beauty are regarded as values these days, but these are all, again, conditional values. They become more and more rarified and ethereal as we go further and further, so that we cannot say what this world is made of finally. It is not made up of anything that we can imagine in our minds.

Here is the masterstroke that the Bhagavadgita deals when it moves on to the delineation of the glories of God as constituting the essence of creation, which is the subject of the tenth chapter. The world consists of the glories of God, and not of physical objects or friends and enemies, etc. As the ocean consists of waves of water, large and small, swirls and eddies, currents and circles, etc., various manifestations of God, in various degrees of intensity, constitute this creation. We are nearing a dangerous border where we shall not be able to breathe satisfactorily because of it becoming necessary for us to accept that creation does not exist at all. Creation is not there, and there seems to be something quite different in the place of that which we regarded as creation, as a world of friends and foes, as a universe of values, of things and relations, pleasurable or otherwise. We will be stunned to be told further on that the magnificent glories of God are the substances of this creation.

The soul of this universe is God—aham atma gudakesa sarva-bhutasaya-sthitah—the essence of things is God Himself. The substance of things is not atoms and electrons, as scientists tell us, but it is God’s glory that is the essence of all things. Electric energy is not the constituent of the universe. Quantum particles or waves of light are not the essence of creation. Space-time coordination and the continuum of energy are not the essence of creation. The spiritual flood of God’s Being, manifest in various degrees of intensity as avatara vibhuti, is the essence of creation. God Himself is creation, and therefore God has not created the world—He has appeared as this world. This is what we are gradually going to be told, to our consternation. Aham atma: “I am the Soul of all beings,” says the great Teacher of the Bhagavadgita. We know what the ‘soul’ means. The soul is anything and everything that is of meaning in anything. Minus the soul of a thing, the thing does not exist at all. Divest anything of its essence and we are freeing it from its soul, which means to say that we are freeing it from the very existence of it. The very existence of anything is called the ‘soul’ of that thing, and so when it is said that God is the soul of all things, it means that the very existence of everything is God, and minus God everything is a zero. There is a nihility, a complete vacuum before us, when God is freed from the essence of creation.

There is no world outside God, and therefore the world does not exist outside Him. But this is a difficult concept, so we are given a more particular description which the mind is in a position to understand more conveniently than when it is presented with this stupendous reality of God being the sum and substance, the very existence of all things. We are told that He is the creator, preserver and destroyer—aham adis ca madhyam ca bhutnam anta eva ca. So we are a little bit solaced; we are coming down to a lesser definition and a more acceptable description of creation when we are told that God is the creator, the preserver and the transformer of things than when we are told that He is the very existence of everything. In the beginning it is said that God is the soul, the sum and substance, the essence, the being, and the all-in-all of everything—that is the atmatva of all things. It is at the same time told that He is the originator, the propeller, the sustainer and the dissolver of all things. Even this is a difficult thing for us to imagine. What this creation is, what this sustenance is and what this dissolution is, in a cosmic sense—our puny brains cannot contain these thoughts.

So we are told particular glories—adityanam aham visnur, etc. All that is of supreme excellence in this world should be regarded as a ray of God. The whole of the tenth chapter is a description of this particular glory. Wherever there is an exuberance of manifestation, whatever be the kind of that manifestation—it may be any cataclysm or even a flood—even that is to be regarded as a superb vibhuti of God. This excellence or superiority of manifestation need not necessarily be a beautiful and picturesque scenery before us. Any kind of catastrophic excellence, which can be acceptable or terrifying—either way it should be regarded as God’s manifestation. We will be told also that He is the destroyer of all things.Kalo’smi loka-ksaya-krt pravrddho: “I am the world swallowing time.” We will not be prepared to accept this kind of definition of God so easily. “I have come to doom everything and swallow all of you up.” If someone says that, we cannot regard him as God—we will think he is something terrific and most portending.

The excellences of God are gradually described in their varieties of excellence. The most beautiful things, most powerful things, most valourous things, most heroic acts, and anything that surpasses in knowledge and power the comprehensibility of the human mind usually has been regarded as God’s vibhuti. While it is true that the glory of God is present in every little thing, and there is nothing where His presence is not felt in some manner or the other, for our satisfaction it is said that that which excels our knowledge and power should be regarded by us as the glories of God for our adoration, worship and regard. We are wonderstruck many a time by occurrences in the world. We are stupefied and taken by consternation; we are flabbergasted. The wonder of creation is not exhausted merely by the rise of the sun or the moon, the existence of the solar system and the creation of the world through nebular dust, etc. It exists even in little things in the day-to-day existence of our own small lives.

If we are cautious enough to probe into the small occurrences of our daily lives, we will find small miracles taking place every day. Little births of divine miracles will be visible in the bubbles of our daily activities. But we are too stupid to have even time to think of these things. We are busybodies to the utmost extent, on account of which the miracles of God present in the daily lives of ordinary people are not usually recognised. Every little event in the world is a miracle by itself. Even that we are able to stand on our two legs should be regarded as a miracle, that we are breathing is a miracle, that our heart is pumping blood is a miracle. Who can say that there can be a greater miracle than the working of the human body, for instance? Why go further than that? Let us confine ourselves merely to this very obvious phenomenon called the human mechanism, the anatomic and the physiological systems. Can we imagine a greater perfection than this, more miraculous than how the five elements combine into this perfection of the human body? Even to think of such a stupendous reality as God’s existence—can we not call this a vibhuti of God?

Well, so the Teacher says, “There is no end for the enumeration of my glories.” Nanto’sti mama divyanam vibhutinam: Endless are the glories—everywhere we can see them, if we have the eyes to see. If we have the ears to hear, if we have the mind to think and the brain to understand, we will find His presence everywhere. In every nook and corner, in every little cranny we will find the splash of this beauty of divine presence. “Well, why should I speak to you more,” says the great Master. “By a little fraction My magnitude of Being, I sustain this whole cosmos—a little fraction of Myself, not the entirety.” Ekamsena sthito jagat: “By a little part of My Being, I am sustaining this entire magnificent cosmos.” We can imagine what could be the magnificence of God Himself!