Commentary on the Bhagavadgita
by Swami Krishnananda

Discourse 20: The Seventh Chapter Continues – The Glory of God and His Creation

God assumes a glorified form through the personality of the great incarnation Bhagavan Sri Krishna. “I am all. Surrender yourself to Me.” These statements are actually the statements of the Supreme, Who is revealed in the personality of Bhagavan Sri Krishna. In future, wherever the word ‘I’ is used by the great Master, we should be careful to note as to who this ‘I’ is. “Come unto Me all who are weary and heavy laden,” said Christ—‘me’ with a capital M.

Vṛṣṇīnāṁ vāsudevosmi (10.37) is told in the Tenth Chapter: “I am Vasudeva among the Vrishnis.” This statement could not have been made by Krishna himself. Somebody else was speaking. It was the personality of Nara-Narayana incarnated as Bhagavan Sri Krishna and Arjuna, the spokesmen of the Supreme Absolute. The Eternal spoke through the personality of Bhagavan Sri Krishna. It is the Supreme Brahman, the Absolute that said, “I am the all.” It was said, “Outside Me nothing can be, higher than Me nothing exists, external to Me nothing can be real.” Mattaḥ parataraṁ nānyat kiñcid asti dhanaṁjaya, mayi sarvam idaṁ protaṁ sūtre maṇigaṇā iva (7.7): “As beads are strung on a thread, the whole universe is strung on Me. I remain as the connecting Soul of all particulars.”

The details of the varieties of manifestation that we shall read in the Tenth Chapter are briefly premonitioned, as it were, in the verses that follow. We will find that the succeeding chapters are something like a commentary on the preceding one. “I am the taste in water.” Water is the embodiment, but the taste in the water is God’s presence: raso’aham apsu kaunteya prabhāsmi śaśisūryayoḥ (7.8). The radiance that we experience as emanating from the sun is a shadow, as it were, cast by the Supreme Absolute Sun. It is said in the Vedas, yasya chāyā amritaṁ yasya mrityuḥ: “Immortality is a shadow cast by the Absolute, and death is another shadow that is cast by It.” The highest conception of liberation that we may have in our minds falls short of what it really is.

It is described in the Moksha Dharma Parva of the Mahabharata that when Narada went to have darshan of Narayana in Vaikuntha, he saw a vast Cosmic Being who said, “You are seeing only an illusion. My reality is something else.” Even the cosmic being-ness of the Absolute is considered as peripheral to its essential nature. All light comes from It. All taste, all sensibility, all understanding, all feeling, anything that is of any worthwhile nature in the world, whatever significance we can see anywhere—any meaning whatsoever in life—is an emanation from that Supreme Being.

Raso’aham apsu kaunteya prabhāsmi śaśisūryayoḥ, praṇavaḥ sarvavedeṣu. Pranava is Omkara, Om. In the Manusmriti it is said that Brahma expanded the three letters A, U and M that constitute Omkara into the three metres of the Gayatri mantra. The three feet of the Gayatri mantra are the expanded forms of the three components of Omkara—A, U, M. The three sections of the Purusha Sukta of the Veda are further expansions of the three feet of the Gayatri mantra. The three Vedas—Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda—are further expansions of the three sections of the Purusha Sukta. If we extract the essence of the three Vedas, we will get the Purusha Sukta. If we extract the essence of the Purusha Sukta, we will get the Gayatri mantra. If we extract the meaning of the Gayatri mantra, we will get pranava, which is the seed.

There was no Veda in the Krita Yuga; pranava was the Veda in the Krita Yuga. The Veda did not manifest itself in its present form in the Treta Yuga also, because the present form of the Vedas is nothing but the classifications made by Veda Vyasa Krishna Dvaipayana, who was a contemporary of Bhagavan Sri Krishna in the Dvapara Yuga. Perhaps in the earlier cycles of creation, the exposition of the great Truth in words or in detailed forms of expression was not felt necessary. Therefore, Sri Krishna says, “Essentially I am the Omkara—the supreme vibration which gradually became concretised into the visible universe.”

That pure vibration is the unimaginable continuum, which is originally nothing but motion and force. Even according to modern science, there is only motion and force—vibration, as it were—trying to get condensed into tangible substances finer than even atoms, which gradually descend into more grosser forms of molecules, cells, organisms, and the huge cosmos of physical elements. “The origin of all things I am, and the exposition of it is here in the form of pranava. The supreme vibration that caused the whole cosmos is Me; and the vibration emanated from My will, the central will of Ishvara.”

Śabdaḥ khe: The reverberation of sound that is caused by space when we make any sound anywhere is also caused by the universal existence of Ishvara in space itself. Otherwise, there would not be a reverberation of sound; it would be only inside our ears. Pauruṣaṁ nṛṣu: The heroism, the strength, the virility, the energy that people feel in themselves, that also comes from God. It does not come merely from the food that we eat, because thrusting food into a corpse will not give it energy. The vitality that is necessary for the body to digest food and make it its own comes from Vaisvanara Agni, which is the universal fire. Pacāmyannaṁ caturvidham (15.14): “I digest your fourfold food working as the cosmic fire, Vaisvanara Agni, in the stomach.”

The energy content in the cosmos, the energy quantum in any person, in anything whatsoever—even the energy of the elephant or the lion—is a manifestation of that immaculate, immeasurable energy, the shakti of Brahman. Puṇyo gandhaḥ pṛthivyāṁ (7.9): The fragrance of the flower and the beautiful scent from things in the world are components of the earth. The space principle, akasha, has only one quality: the production and reverberation of sound. Air has two qualities: in the form of wind it can make sound, and also it can be felt by us. Space cannot be felt. We can only see it as an expanse that is the cause and the reverberation of sound. Fire not only makes sound and we can feel it, but it also has colour, which air does not have. So as we come down, the number of qualities increases by one. Thus, there is only sound in space; there is sound and touch in air; there is sound, touch, and colour in fire; there is sound, touch, colour, and taste in water; and there is sound, touch, colour, taste and smell in earth. “The smell which is in anything that is formed of earth, even in the highest rarefied form in a flower—it is My presence in it that gives life to things in the form of the fragrance.”

Tejaś cāsmi vibhāvasau: “The brilliance of the sun is My brilliance.” The sun’s light is borrowed light. Na tatra sūryo bhāti (Katha 2.2.15): In that Supreme Light of lights, the sun does not shine. The sun’s light is like darkness before that Supreme Radiance. Of all the light that we can think of, we can think of only sunlight as the greatest. They say that there are stars which are bigger than the sun, more brilliant that the sun, towards which the entire galaxy is moving. All these things are unthinkable. We cannot even dream of what those stars could be in their majesty of largeness and radiance—eighty thousand times more than the sun; and countless millions of times more brilliant is the brilliance of God. We can only speak like this, but we cannot know what it actually means. It is something beyond our conception because however much we go on glorifying the Light of lights, we still confine ourselves only to the light of the sun. The best we can do is to multiply the quantity of the sunlight in order that we may have an idea of what that great Light is. But the spiritual Light is not merely an expansion in quantum; it is also qualitatively more intense. We are not fit even to think what it is: tejaś cāsmi vibhāvasau.

Jīvanaṁ sarvabhūteṣu: “The vitality, the very life-principle in all things is Myself.” Tapaś cāsmi tapasviṣu: The energy that we produce by sense control, mental control and tapasya is an intensified expression of the energy of God. The more are we self-controlled, the more is the chance of the energy of God entering into us. The senses and the mind, which go in the direction of objects outside, do not permit the entry of the universal energy into our personality and, therefore, we do not feel strong. We become weak by decay and old age. The more is our capacity to withdraw the energy that gets depleted through the sense organs and the mind, the greater is the quantum of energy that is held in us. Tapas shakti, or the power of yoga—the energy of the sages who can bless us or curse us—is nothing but the enhanced entry of God-energy into us through tapas. “That energy of tapas is Myself,” says the Almighty.

Bījaṁ māṁ sarvabhūtānāṁ viddhi pārtha sanātanam (7.10): “I am the origin, the seed of all things. Whatever be the diversity that you see in this world—milk is different from stone, mango is different from sand, water is different from honey—whatever be the difference visible to the eyes and to your sensory experience, the seed of all these so-called diversifications is Me alone.” We are told that things differ in their chemical composition on account of the atomic particles differing in their number and velocity. If the number and the velocity of the atoms in milk change, it can become poison; and if the number and the velocity of the atoms in poison are either increased or decreased as would be required, it can become milk. Nectar can become poison and poison can become nectar by the permutation and combination of the inner components. In science, they are called atomic particles. Whatever be the diversity that we see in this world—varieties of fruit, honey, the fragrance of beautiful things—can we imagine they all come from the sun, which is a blazing mass of atomic energy? There must be some miracle working in the blazing heat of the sun where everything must be in a potential form—else nothing could be on earth, which has come from it. So everything is there in an unimaginable form, in the seed of all things. Bījaṁ māṁ sarvabhūtānāṁ viddhi pārtha sanātanam: “Know Me as the eternal seed of all things, in all variety or diversity.”

Buddhir buddhimatām asmi: If we have intelligence, it is a ray of the light that is emanating from God’s brilliance. An intelligent person is more sattvic than an unintelligent person in the sense that the buddhi of the intelligent person is less dominated by rajas and tamas and, therefore, the Atman’s light can shine through in the sattvic intellect of an intelligent person. The intelligence quotient of a person—the IQ, as it is called these days—is dependent entirely on the extent of the Atman’s light that can be reflected through the buddhi. The intellect is only a vehicle, like a mirror. It itself does not think and understand, as a mirror does not shine unless there is light. The light has to come from the Atman within through the three koshas, but that cannot happen if rajas and tamas cloud the intellect. Thus, an intelligent person, a genius, a great scholar, a highly learned person with great insight—such a person has the blessing of embodying in his own or her own intellect the mighty wisdom of God. Buddhir buddhimatām asmi: “The intelligence of the intelligent is My consciousness—the Supreme Intelligence, jnana, that is reflected there through the intellects of people.”

Tejas tejasvinām aham: The valour of people, the zest that we feel, the enthusiasm that we have, the vigour that we manifest in our daily activity, the indomitable power that we sometimes manifest, and the indefatigability with which we manifest our capacity to work—they come from God.

Balaṁ balavatāṁ cāhaṁ (7.11): Whoever has got tremendous strength, that strength comes from the permeation of the cosmic energy through the body by the permutation and combination of physical particles or cells of the person. The more we are free from kama and raga, the stronger will we be. The more are we infested with desire or kama and raga, attachment and desire, the weaker will we be in our memory, in our mind, in our understanding, in our intellect, and in our body. Strength, even physical strength, can be seen to be superior in its manifestation in tapasvins than in bhogis, or indulgent persons. When people indulge too much through the sense organs, the mind and the sentiments become weak. Only the self-controlled are really strong. They are indefatigable. There is a divine shakti operating in strong people, the strength coming from tapas, or the freedom that one has from raga, dvesha, kama, raga. The greater is the desire to indulge in the sense organs, in the objects of sense and in the attachment to things, the weaker we become. The less is the attachment and the desire of the senses to plunge into activity and contact things, the less is the sense activity. The greater the energy inside, the stronger we become, and we will never be tired.

Kāmarāgavivarjitam, dharmāviruddho bhūteṣu kāmo’asmi bharatarṣabha: We desire always That. There are varieties of desires within That. A desire which is not opposed to dharma is an evocation from God Himself. If God were not present in some form in our desires, we would not have even the desire to attain God. When the desire gets diversified and split into fragments, as it were, when it passes through the sense organs, it becomes contaminated by the vicious forces of centrifugality; and that becomes a binding medium for the individual manifesting such a desire in an externalised form. If the desire is integrating—if it is a desire to unselfishly serve people in the world, a desire to study the scriptures, a desire to sit alone and meditate, a desire to be alone to oneself and not be in the midst of people, a desire to unite oneself with the Cosmic Being—these also are desires, but they are in consonance with the dharma, or the unifying principle, of the cosmos. “Such desires are Myself manifesting through you.” This is not the type of desire that is mentioned in the previous line as depleting our energy and decreasing our strength. Dharmāviruddho bhūteṣu kāmo’asmi bharatarṣabha. Dharma, artha, kama and moksha are the four objectives of life; and when they are blended in the proper proportion, they become the energy that is necessary for us to rocket forth to the Supreme Absolute.

Ye caiva sātvikā bhāvā rājasās tāmasāś ca ye, matta eveti tān viddhi na tvahaṁ teṣu te mayi (7.12): “Even the good things and the bad things seem to be really there due to My presence in them in some positive or negative manner.” People say that the world is unreal, that it does not exist. There cannot be a consciousness of the non-existence of the world unless it exists in some form, because if the world is not there at all, there is no necessity for us to say it does not exist. We have a suspicion that it exists and, therefore, we say it does not exist. If it is really not there, why should we go on saying it does not exist? Even appearance cannot appear to us unless there is a reality behind it, as a snake cannot appear unless there is a rope on which it appears. The world may be an appearance, but how do we know that it is an appearance unless there is a reality behind it? Appearance per se cannot be known at all as an appearance. The knowledge of there being such a thing as an appearance implies that the appearance contacts reality, and it shines in borrowed feathers.

The qualities of sattva, rajas and tamas are the activities of prakriti—which correspond to light or radiance, desire, and torpidity of nature—and are various degrees of the manifestation of the Supreme Absolute. For instance, the Absolute exists in stone. Stone exists. It is. This is-ness, or the existence of stone, is due to the existence of something behind it—the be-ness, as we call it. Stone exists, but it cannot think. There is no consciousness in it. It cannot even know that it exists. The existence aspect of the Absolute is manifest in inanimate things like stone. The life principle, which is vitality, is manifest in plants and trees, which breathe and feel hunger and thirst. The consciousness aspect in a translucent—not transparent—form manifests itself in animals in the form of instinct; and in a more perspicuous way, consciousness, chit, manifests itself in the intelligence of the human being.

Thus, in the process of evolution, existence gradually becomes consciousness. But bliss is not fully manifest in the human individual. We have existence, we have consciousness, but we are not happy people. That is because our consciousness is mixed with a little of rajas and tamas. We are overactive in an externalised sense, taking the world as a total reality that is external to us. This causes distraction of the mind and senses to such an extent that the integral bliss of the Absolute cannot manifest itself in us. Thus the human being, though called the image of God, is only an image to some extent in the existence and the consciousness aspects. The consciousness in the human being is distracted, so full insight is not available, and the bliss is completely obliterated. The bliss aspect of the Absolute is manifest in some way in the deep sleep state, where the mind and the sense organs do not operate. How can we be so happy in the condition of deep sleep, which is uncontaminated by the powers of the senses and the mind, and where we have no food to eat, no friends to talk to, no world to think of, and nothing whatsoever? In that state we are practically annihilated, and the bliss of that self-annihilation far supersedes all the best conceivable happiness of even an emperor. All these things can be found in great detail in the Panchadasi.

Therefore, whether these manifestations are sattvic, rajasic or tamasic, or even the so-called evil things in the world, they can exist only if there is an existent aspect to them. Evil cannot exist unless God’s existence permeates it. The distortion that is the characteristic of the outer form of it makes it evil or a sin, but it cannot be unless the be-ness of God is at the back of it. Ye caiva sātvikā bhāvā rājasās tāmasāś ca ye.

Api ced asi pāpebhyaḥ sarvebhyaḥ pāpakṛttamaḥ (4.36): “Whatever is sattvic, whatever is rajasic, and whatever is the worst of things conceivable, it manifests from Me. I am at the back of it. I am the destructive power also.”

Matta eveti tān viddhi na tvahaṁ teṣu te mayi: “Know that everything—sattva, rajas, tamas, and all their permutations and combinations—manifests from Me. They are in Me, but I am not in them.” Existence-consciousness is present in name and form, but name and form is not in existence. The variety is in the unity, but the unity is not in the variety. The integrality is present in the diversity, but the diversity is not in the integrality. God is in all things, but things are not in God. This is a peculiarity which we have to note when God says, “Everything is in Me, but I am not in anything.” This is because all particulars hang on the Universal. The particulars cannot exist unless the Universal is there, but the Universal can exist without the particulars. Hence, “Everything is in Me, but I am not in them”—na tv ahaṁ teṣu te mayi.

Tribhir guṇamayair bhāvair ebhiḥ sarvam idaṁ jagat, mohitaṁ nābhijānāti mām ebhyaḥ param avyayam (7.13): “I am above the three gunas. Deluded and confounded by the dominance of sattva, rajas and tamas, which characterise the fourteen realms of existence, the entire creation is confounded because of the preponderance of the three gunas; but they do not know Me, and even the gods in heaven cannot know Me.”

Devair atrāpi vicikitsitam purā, na hi suvijñeyam, aṇur eṣa dharmaḥ (Katha 1.1.21): Yama, the great Lord, speaks to Nachiketas, “The gods in heaven cannot understand what you are expecting from me, and you want it to be given to you so easily.” Aham ādir hi devānāṁ (10.2): “The gods cannot know. I am prior to even the gods. I am the origin of even the gods and, therefore, how can the gods know? How can people who came much later know Me? Because of My transcendence, the divisions of the world, which are the particulars or the individuals, cannot know Me.” That which is the transcendent cannot be known by that which is subsumed under this transcendence. The higher can know the lower, but the lower cannot know the higher. God knows all things, but things cannot know God.

Daivī hyeṣā guṇamayī mama māyā duratyayā (7.14): Divine is this power of delusion which we generally call maya. It is nothing but the operation of the three gunas. The trigunas are the so-called maya. The power of the action of the gunas of prakritisattva, rajas and tamas—blinds our vision completely. The gunas blind us completely, and it is not easy for anyone to overcome them. We cannot overcome them because our very personality is constituted of the three gunas. Who are we to overcome them? The body, the mind and the sense organs, which are our property and our asset and our very existence, so-called, as we are constituted of them—how can we overcome them unless there is a power that is above what we are constituted of? Mām eva ye prapadyante māyām etāṁ taranti te: “You cannot overcome these three gunas until you resort to Me.”

This point can be illustrated by the action of a fishing net. The fisherman throws the net far away from him, and fish which are far away are caught by net; but those fish near the feet of the fisherman are not caught. The nearer is the fish to the feet of the fisherman, the less is the chance of it being caught. The farther it is, the greater the chance of it being caught. So, do not go away from God. Catch hold of His feet. Once we take resort at the feet of the Almighty, maya vanishes like mist before the sun. But if we try to overcome these three gunas with our own personal effort minus the grace of the Almighty, it will not work.

In a sense, we may say there is a power that is more than what we can conceive in this world, and only that power is the final resting place for us. It is the resort of all people. We must surrender ourselves completely and abolish our egos, and not project our intellectual, physical or mental powers too much—because, after all, these powers that we manifest through our individuality are the compositions of sattva, rajas and tamas. We must abolish the individuality itself in our self-surrender to God. “Those who come to Me in that way transcend maya and the three gunas.” Mām eva ye prapadyante māyām etāṁ taranti te: Unless we resort to God’s feet, there is no way of escape from the clutches of the three gunas. Human effort alone is not sufficient.