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Commentary on the Bhagavadgita
by Swami Krishnananda

Discourse 27: The Ninth Chapter Continues – The Kingly Knowledge and the Greatness of God

The Ninth Chapter is something like the Seventh Chapter. Whatever we have been told in the Seventh Chapter by way of a universal religion is explained in a different way, in a more deviated style, with some detailed descriptions. Practically, the Ninth Chapter is a continuation of the very same theme that we had in the Seventh Chapter, with the Eighth Chapter in between with its message of it being necessary for us to know what will happen to us after death even if we are highly religious people. The Ninth Chapter is a highly religious scripture by itself.

Idaṁ tu te guhyatamaṁ (9.1): “This is the secret of secrets that I am going to tell you.” Pravakṣyāmy anasūyave: “Because you are highly devoted to Me and you are not prejudiced against anything, I shall tell you this secret of secrets.” Jñānaṁ vijñānasahitaṁ yaj jñātvā mokṣyase'śubhāt. The reference to jnana and vijnana was also made in the Seventh Chapter. Now once again it is repeated: “I shall tell you everything regarding jnana and vijnana—that is, knowledge as well as spiritual experience. Or it can also mean the knowledge of everything connected with this world and the knowledge of the eternal realities. I shall describe to you what these are.”

This is called rajavidya, the kingly science and the kingly secret. Rājavidyā rājaguhyaṁ (9.2): “It is as secret as the king's abode, and as glorious as the king himself. Such is this vidya, this knowledge into which I am going to initiate you. Rājavidyā rājaguhyaṁ pavitram idam uttamam: Most sacred is this knowledge; best of all learning is this. Pratyakṣāvagamaṁ dharmyaṁ: You will know the result of it by direct experience. The proof of the pudding is in the eating of it. You will know what the meaning of all this is by direct experience, and you will rejoice to have that experience. Susukhaṁ: Immense rejoicing—from blessedness you move to blessedness by knowing this truth. Kartum avyayam: It is easy to practise, and the effect it produces is imperishable.”

Aśraddadhānāḥ puruṣā dharmasyāsya paraṁtapa, aprāpya māṁ nivartante mṛtyusaṁsāravartmani (9.3): “Those who do not have faith in this kind of teaching, and are attached to the objects of sense, come back to this world of mortality and this suffering of samsara because they do not know that I pervade all things. They are mostly motivated by the sense organs; they believe what they see, and their reason is not sufficiently operative. They are people without faith—aśraddadhānāḥ puruṣā. They do not know what the supreme universal dharma is. They do not reach Me and, therefore, they come back to this great sorrow-ridden world of materiality and sensuality.”

Mayā tatam idaṁ sarvaṁ jagad avyaktamūrtinā (9.4): “Invisibly, un-understandably, as it were, I am pervading all things. There is no place, no nook or cranny or corner, where I am not. I bring about an organic relation among all the things in the world, though they are millions of light years away from the point of view of sense perception.” Something may be millions and millions of light years away, yet it is connected with us just here. The moment we sigh here on this earth, it is known in the abode of Brahma that we sighed. Such is the organic relationship of all things, because there is a life principle invisibly operating in all things. “I am present in all things. Everything is pervaded by Me. There is no location where I am not. You cannot hide anything from Me.” Mayā tatam idaṁ sarvaṁ jagad avyaktamūrtinā, matsthāni sarvabhūtāni: “All things are located in Me.” This is also a repetition of something that is said in the Seventh Chapter. Matsthāni sarvabhūtāni na cāhaṁ teṣvavasthitaḥ: “I am not in them.”

All particulars are in the Universal; the Universal is not in the particulars. The waves are in the ocean; the ocean is not in the waves. We can draw a similar analogy when the Lord says, “I am in everything, but things are not in Me.” Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, or sat-chit-ananda svarupa, is present in every name and form, but name and form are not in sat-chit-ananda. God is in the world, but the world is not in God. This is the reason why the Lord says, “Everything is in Me, but I am not in them. I remain transcendent though, at the same time, I am immanent in all things.”

Na ca matsthāni bhūtāni (9.5): “I said that everything is in Me, but now I am also saying that, in another way, they are not in Me.” This is because the world of dream cannot be sticking to our waking consciousness. “Nothing in the world can be in Me, inasmuch as the world does not exist for Me. Though I said earlier that inasmuch as I am immanent in all things and I pervade all things, all things may be said to be in Me, now I say that I am without externality, without space, without time. Therefore, things cannot be there; and therefore, the question of things residing in Me also does not arise.” Na ca matsthāni—immediately the previous statement is contradicted. “Things are also not in Me, for another reason altogether.”

Paśya me yogam aiśvaram: “Look at My glory; see My majesty.” “Look at Me,” the Almighty says. “How wonderful is this majesty of My abode where I am everywhere. Everything is in Me, and yet nothing is in Me.”

Advanced thought on true religion was briefly delineated in the Seventh Chapter. Many of the ideas occurring in the Ninth Chapter are, to some extent, just expository of the thoughts expressed in the Seventh Chapter.

At the time of the dissolution of the universe, everyone is withdrawn into the cosmic bosom; and all individuals, all jivas, lie there in that state, like unconscious sleepers. When Brahma is dissolved at the end of time, after the period of one hundred years of his regime, the whole universe is dissolved. Not even the five elements—earth, water, fire, air and ether—remain. Everything goes, and all created beings are withdrawn into the causal sheath of the cosmos. In that condition of cosmic sleep, one will not know what 'is' and what 'is not'.

The Manusmirti says: asid asitidam tamobhutam aprajnatam alakshanam apratargyam avijneyam prasuptamiva sarvatah. In the beginning, it looked as if the whole universe was sleeping. Tamobhutam: Darkness enveloped the whole cosmos. Aprajnatam: Unknown to everybody. Alakshanam: Indescribable—all were sleeping.

When another hundred years of sleep pass, there is a rising of Brahma once again; and one does not know whether it is the same Brahma who rises, or another. Evidently, it is not the same. It is mentioned in the Valmiki Ramayana that the next Brahma will be Hanuman: svayam nava vyakaranarthavetta brahma bhavatyapi te prasadat. Of all the created beings, only Hanuman has been found fit to be Brahma in the next cycle. We are also here, reading so much, but we have not been selected. The selection committee has been very strict, and it finally found Hanuman to be the best person: brahma bhavatyapi te prasadat. There are so many great men, but only Hanuman has been selected. He must be some great genius.

Even according to certain doctrines of modern science, there is the enunciation of this cyclic rotation of the universe, in which the individual patterns remain the same while the spirits indwelling these patterns differ. It is a very strange doctrine, which is parallel in pattern to the Indian doctrines of cycle. Yatha purvam akalpayat: In the same manner as creation took place earlier, once again creation will take place. The same forms will be there, the same mould, the same shape, the same persons, the same avataras—the same Rama and the same Krishna—will recur again and again for millions and millions of times, but the inner soul indwelling these forms will be different. This is the doctrine of some modern thinkers like Alfred North Whitehead, and it is corroborated by Indian thinkers who believe in the cycles of creation.

When we enter into this cosmic bosom, it does not mean that we will be liberated. We will be only in a state of unconsciousness. The dissolution of the universe does not mean dissolution of our karmas. The karmas lie there, as creditors may sleep with us and get up in the morning with us in order to harass us for the dues that we owe them. All the good deeds and bad deeds—in a highly subtle, rarefied form—will stick to us, as they stick to us even in our ordinary deep sleep. Our karmas are not destroyed when we become completely unconscious in the state of deep sleep because when we wake up in the morning, we do not become different persons merely because we were unconscious. We remain the same person when we get up in the morning because what we deserve sticks to us like a fine potency—adrishya—invisible to the eyes. Our deeds cling to us even in the state of deep sleep, and they cling to us even when the whole universe is dissolved. So there is no great point in thinking that we will be absolved of all our commitments when the universe is dissolved and we merge into the bosom of the cosmic prakriti. It is another long, long sleep in comparison with the shorter sleep of ours.

The Lord says: sarvabhūtāni kaunteya prakṛtiṁ yānti māmikām, kalpakṣaye punas tāni kalpādau visṛjāmyaham (9.7). At the end of the kalpa (which is the cycle of time I described previously) the whole universe gets withdrawn into prakriti. The Puranas refer to it as the baby Narayana. The Puranas have a fantastic description of all these conditions, where the little baby Lord Krishna, Narayana—we may call him by whatever name—is lying on this cosmic ocean on a little banyan leaf, sucking his own toe as children sometimes do. Vatasya patrasya pute sayanam balam mukundam manasa smarami: That crawling child sleeps on that little leaf. That child is physically very small, but inside that little baby the potentials of the whole cosmos are dancing. He is called anantakoti brahmanda nayaka: the ruler of the endless universes. Thus, this drama of creation goes on endlessly, endlessly, endlessly—without beginning, without end.

Prakṛtiṁ svām avaṣṭabhya visṛjāmi punaḥ punaḥ, bhūtagrāmam imaṁ kṛtsnam avaśaṁ prakṛter vaśāt (9.8): Because of our involvement in the three gunas of prakriti, we neither have the choice whether to enter that ocean or not, nor do we have the option to come back from that. Avaśaṁ: We are helplessly driven into it, and are also helplessly brought back—as helplessly we go to sleep, and helplessly we wake up. We cannot stop our sleeping, nor can we stop our waking. A miniature cosmic drama is taking place in our own daily life. The universe expands into an endless dimension which includes all jivas. But the Lord says, “I am not doing anything, really speaking.”

Na ca māṁ tāni karmāṇi nibadhnanti dhanaṁjaya, udāsīnavad āsīnam asaktaṁ teṣu karmasu (9.9). God is a transcendent Being, and therefore, even if He is immanent and actually indwelling in these potential individuals, He is not contaminated. He cannot be said to be doing anything at all. The process of creation and destruction do not seem to affect the original will of the Supreme Being because of its being transcendent and immanent simultaneously. It is involved in every bit of creation, and yet it is not involved in anything. Matsthāni sarvabhūtāni na cāhaṁ teṣv avasthitaḥ: “I am in all things, and yet I am not in anything. All beings are in Me, and yet nobody is in Me.” Na ca matsthāni bhūtāni: “The whole creation is due to Me, and yet it is not due to Me.” The gunas of prakriti cannot in any way touch the supreme transcendence of the Absolute.

Mayādhyakṣeṇa prakṛtiḥ sūyate sacarācaram (9.10): “The whole cosmic dance is due to My presence, of course.” The progenating capacity of prakriti through the three gunas is due to the light of the Cosmic Being that is activating it, as our lives are activated by the light of the sun that rises in the morning. The whole world gets transformed constantly, and never rests in one condition—jagad viparivartate—on account of the restlessness that is inherent in the gunas of prakriti; and their activity is enhanced into a continuous movement by the action of the consciousness of the Supreme Purusha—Bhagavan, the Absolute. But, “People who are limited to their own bodies, and cannot think beyond their skin, cannot know that in My transcendent capacity I incarnate Myself as the adhyatma, or the essential soul of all beings. People who do not have proper understanding, who are involved in the clutches of the gunas of prakriti, cannot appreciate this mystery of Mine that I am transcendentally disconnected from everything that is taking place in the realm of prakriti, though everything is taking place due to Me only.”

Avajānanti māṁ mūḍhā mānuṣīṁ tanum āśritam (9.11): “People imagine that I have got a form.” We say that Lord Krishna was in Brindavan, that he was in Dvaraka, that he was in Kurukshetra, and so on; but his essential nature was nothing of the kind. That which is not human was masquerading in that apparently human form. Otherwise, that apparently human form could not have assumed a non-human Cosmic Form—which it did on various occasions. Bhagavan Sri Krishna's Visvarupa was shown four times during his life, including once in the Bhagavadgita, and each time the presentation was qualitatively different. The Visvarupa appeared in a particular manner the first time, it appeared differently the second time, was another thing altogether the third time, and was something altogether different the fourth time. It was a Universal manifestation, no doubt, but it looked different according to the conditions or the exigencies of the time. In the context of the Bhagavadgita, it appeared as the Time Spirit that was up and doing for the destruction of all beings, as will be described in the Eleventh Chapter. “People think that I am a human being—walking with two feet, living in a palace with a large family—but nothing of the kind is My nature. My body, My personality, is only a focusing point of a larger existence which is My real nature, which pervades all space and transcends space and time.”

Moghāśā moghakarmāṇo moghajñānā vicetasaḥ, rākṣasīm āsurīṁ caiva prakṛtiṁ mohinīṁ śritāḥ (9.12): People who are infested with the rakshasi prakriti of intense rajas and tamas, who believe in the reality of the external world of matter, who also believe, simultaneously, in the internal world of the physical body—these people who are of a rakshasa nature are deluded by their involvement in these gunas of prakriti. Daivi prakriti is a divine nature, to which reference was made in the Seventh Chapter. It is the higher prakriti, in contrast with the lower prakriti of instincts, sensations, mentations, intellections, etc.

Mahātmānas tu māṁ pārtha daivīṁ prakṛtim āśritāḥ, bhajantyananyamanaso jñātvā bhūtādim avyayam (9.13): “Knowing Me as the Origin of all things, knowing Me as Supreme beyond all things, knowing Me as All-in-all, knowing that in Me everything can be found, knowing that I am the source of immortality, these great souls, mahatmas, resort to Me, being endowed with the highest quality of sattva, which is daivi prakriti. They adore Me in their spirit, they worship Me in their spirit, they praise Me in their spirit, they concentrate on Me through their spirit, and wish that their spirit gets merged in My spirit.” Ananyamanasaḥ: “Those whose mind cannot be distracted in any direction other than My Universal existence, such people I consider as mahatmas, the great souls that inhabit this cosmos.” Such great souls are very few in number, as the Yoga Vasishtha tells us. It is said that they are very few in number because the earth cannot bear the weight of such great people. Mahātmānas tu māṁ pārtha daivīṁ prakṛtim āśritāḥ, bhajantyananyamanaso jñātvā bhūtādim avyayam: Great souls are very few in number; wicked people are multifarious. In one of his commentaries, Sankaracharya says that gods are lesser in number than demons.

Mahatmas are very few, and two mahatmas cannot be in one place. It is said that Bernard Shaw was invited to come to India during Mahatma Gandhi's lifetime. He said, it seems, “I cannot go to India, inasmuch as two mahatmas cannot be in one country. Because Mahatma Gandhi is already there, and I am also a mahatma, and two mahatmas cannot be in the same place, I am not going. One country can have only one mahatma, as only one lion can rule in a jungle.”

Satataṁ kīrtayanto māṁ yatantaś ca dṛḍhavratāḥ, namasyantaś ca māṁ bhaktyā nityayuktā upāsate (9.14): “They dance and sing, and are in a state of ecstasy due to communion with My great, glorious spirit. They always sing about My greatness and glory, and speak of Me wherever they go. In the streets, in the marketplace, in the house, in satsangas, in family circles—everywhere they talk of Me.” An example is Saint Tukaram, who had no other thought wherever he went. Whether it is in a shop, in a marketplace, in a house or in a satsanga hall, it is one continuous, ecstatic thought which compels them to glorify God wherever they go. Satataṁ kīrtayanto māṁ yatantaś ca dṛḍhavratāḥ: “And perpetually striving to come nearer and nearer to Me, so that they become one with Me.”

Namasyantaś ca: Always prostrating themselves in temples, in holy tirthas, near holy trees and to holy saints and sages. Wherever there is a pre-eminence of the manifestation of divinity in this world, to that place and to that thing they resort and offer themselves through deep prostration. These great souls are the humblest people in the world. They prostrate themselves before anybody, even before a child. Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj was one great example. He would touch the feet of anyone, even a baby; it did not matter. Humility is the prerogative of great mahatmas. The greater they are, the smaller they look; and they do not seem to exist at all in their personality because of their not being in one place as egos. They pervade all places as veritable representations of God's glory in this world. They are called gods moving in the world, great souls veritably representing God.

“They worship Me not merely by dancing and singing and prostration, but also by an inward communion of their souls.” Jñānayajñena cāpyanye yajanto mām upāsate (9.15): “In this wisdom of the spirit which is jnana yajna, they behold Me in all varieties of forms.” Ekatvena pṛthaktvena bahudhā viśvatomukham: “As I am everywhere, they can behold Me as one Being existing everywhere; or they can behold Me as two realities indwelling as a transcendent element and also as an immanent element; or they may look upon Me as a multifaceted Reality indwelling many souls.” God can be visualised as a manifold manifestation, as the souls of all created beings; or He can be considered as a dual manifestation, transcendent and immanent; or He can be beheld as one only. It is said that Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa once came to Benares to have darshan of the great saint and sage Trailanga Swami, a great siddha. The greatness of that siddha was such that it drew even Ramakrishna Paramahamsa. It appears that Sri Ramakrishna put a question to Trailanga Swami: “Maharaj, how many gods are there?” [Swamiji raises three fingers, then two fingers, then one finger.] That was the answer. “Yes I understand you.” The great disciple understood the great Master's significant gesture: God is threefold, God is twofold, God is single. Ekatvena pṛthaktvena bahudhā viśvatomukham: In any form we can worship Him.

This is the great charity of feeling and vision that we develop when we become the greatest of souls. The greatest of souls are highly charitable in their feelings, in their gestures, in their speech, in their behaviour, in their actions. Ekatvena pṛthaktvena: Pṛthakt means double, two; bahudhā means manifold. Ekatvena pṛthaktvena bahudhā viśvatomukham. According to Sankaracharya, there is one reality; according to Ramanuja, there are two realities; according to Madhva, there are many realities. Therefore, all the three Acharyas are satisfied with this half verse that Bhagavan Sri Krishna speaks here, which satisfies all viewpoints, as it were.

Rama asked Hanuman, “Who are you? Please tell me. Describe yourself.”

Hanuman's replied, Dehabuddhyat daso'ham: “If you think that I am a body, that I am totally different from you, I am your servant.” Jivabuddhyat tvadamshatah: “If you think that I am a soul, I am a part of you.” Atmabuddhyat tvamevaham: “If you think that I am the spirit, I am you only.”

Ekatvena pṛthaktvena bahudhā viśvatomukham: “As totally different from you, I am your servant; as part of you, I am your soul; and as yourself, I am the Atman. I am everything.”

Now the spirit of the teaching rises into a great tempo of expression, preparing the field for the final Universal manifestation in the form of the Visvarupa in the Eleventh Chapter. “I am all the sacrifices that the Vedic seers perform.” Aahaṁ kratur (9.16): “All the yajnas, worships, sacrifices that people perform through the Smritis, or code of ethics such as Manu, Yajnavalkya, Parasara, etc., that is also Me.”

Ahaṁ kratur ahaṁ yajñaḥ svadhāham aham auṣadham. Once in a month or once in a year there is the sraddha ceremony, in which rice balls are offered to the ancestors. “The spirit indwelling in that performance also is Myself. I am behind the medicine that you take when you are ill. I am the curing force, the curative element in all the medicines.” Mantro'ham: “The mantra that you chant during your japa, I am inside it.” Aham evājyam: “The ghee, or the clarified butter that you pour during your sacrifice, I am inside that.” Aham agniḥ: “The fire that is blazing forth in the yajna, that is also Myself. The bhasma that comes out after the offering is made, that is also Myself.”

“I am the grandfather of all creation. I am the father of everything.” Pitāham asya jagata (9.17): “I am the father, the Paternal Supreme. This world is my progeny, as it were. I am the father, the Supreme Father in Heaven, of this cosmos.” Mātā dhātā pitāmaha: “At the same time, I am also the mother.” “I am the sustainer, the father and the mother of all beings; and I am the grandfather of everybody, being the father even of Brahma himself. I am the one Supreme Reality that is to be finally known, after knowing which, there is no need of knowing anything else.” Vedyaṁ pavitram oṁkāra: “I am the spirit behind the omkara, pranava. The cosmic vibration is Myself only.” Rk sāma yajur eva ca: “The three Vedas extol Me. The spirit behind the mantras of the three Vedas—Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda—is Myself only.” The one God is praised in all the mantras of the three Vedas—Rig, Yajur, Sama.

Gatir bhartā (9.18): “I am the final resort of all people. When everything goes wrong, finally you have to come to Me only. I am the gati, the final abode, the final resort, the sarana, the home and the resting place of everybody. I am the supporter, the sustainer and the nourisher of all beings. I am the overlord of all beings; all gods are below Me, and none is equal to Me. I am the witness, and yet not involved in all this drama of creation, notwithstanding the fact that nothing can move without Me. I am the abode supreme—nivāsaḥ—and the friend of all beings.” Śaraṇaṁ suhṛt: “As I am the real friend of all created beings, the real friend of every one of you, you have to come to Me one day or the other as a final resort.” Prabhavaḥ: “Everything proceeds from Me.” Pralayaḥ: “Everything is dissolved into Me.” Sthānaṁ: “It rests in Me, finally.” Nidhānaṁ: “The very root of all things.” Bījam: “The essential seed of creation.” Avyayam: “Imperishable I am.”

Tapāmyaham ahaṁ varṣaṁ nigṛṇhāmyutsṛjāmi ca (9.19): “I create heat through the sun. I create rain by the force of my will. I also withdraw the rain when it is my will. I release and I withdraw the forces of nature.” This sometimes looks kind, and sometimes looks very unkind. When God releases His energy through the forces of nature, nature seems to be scintillating, smiling and raining, and everything is green and flourishing; but when He withdraws His energy, it becomes dried up, as in a drought.

“I am the final immortal seat of all souls; I am also the death of all beings. Immortality and death, both are Me. It is I Who transforms all mortal elements into the deathless eternality of My own transcendent Being. It is also I Who destroys everything by the process of the evolutionary advance of nature and the cycle of time.” The many cycles are referred to in the earlier verses. Sad asaccāham arjuna: “I am existence and non-existence.” He has left nothing unsaid.

“I am existence and non-existence, being and non-being, this and that, here and there, now and then. There is nothing which I am not. But very few people realise this glory of Mine.” They go to the sacrificial yajnasalas and temples of worship and externally offer adorations, and perform sacrifices for gaining joy in the heaven of Indra by employing the mantras of the Veda for yajnas like Rajasuya, Asvamedha, Somayaga, etc., as described in the Brahmana portions of the Vedas. They do this because they want to rejoice in heaven, and they expect this to be attained through the sacrifices that they make by means of the mantras of the Vedas. They do go to heaven, no doubt; but the merits produced by the performance of the greatest of sacrifices have a beginning and an end. As these merits originated in the sacrifice, they will also end, by the exhaustion thereof through experience. After we enjoy the glories of Indra's heaven, we will fall headlong down to the earth. Therefore, there is no point in our asking for Svarga, or heavenly joys, through the performance of Vedic sacrifices or through externally motivated rituals of any kind, even if they be in the form of worship in a temple. Such people who go to Svargaloka, or heaven, enter the abode of Indra and enjoy the divine blessedness of that place. Then afterwards—kṣīṇe puṇye martyalokaṁ viśanti—when the punyas, or merits, of these people slowly diminish and finally get extinguished, they come to this world once again—evaṁ trayīdharmam.

Traividyā māṁ somapāḥ pūtapāpā yajñair iṣṭvā svargatiṁ prārthayante, te puṇyam āsādya surendralokam aśnanti divyān divi devabhogān; te taṁ bhuktvā svargalokaṁ viśālaṁ kṣīṇe puṇye martyalokaṁ viśanti, evaṁ trayīdharmam anuprapannā gatāgataṁ kāmakāmā labhante (9.20-21): Those who run after the pleasures of sense, those who want to rejoice through the manifestations of their individual personalities—which persist even in heaven because of the fact of egoism persisting there even in a subtle form—their joys come to an end and they come back, like fallen angels bereft of all glory, suffering once again the turmoil of earthly existence.

Now comes a pendant verse. A pendant is a very significant ornamentation in a garland. Even in a flower garland, there is one big flower in the centre called the pendant, which glorifies and adds beauty to the entire garland, whether it is a gold ornament or a flower garland. Some such thing is this verse that we are hearing now. Ananyāś cintayanto māṁ ye janāḥ paryupāsate, teṣāṁ nityābhiyuktānāṁ yogakṣemaṁ vahāmyaham (9.22): “I shall take care of everybody who is undividedly united with Me. I shall provide whatever they do not have, and after providing them with whatever they do not have, I shall also take care to see that it is not taken away from them.” This verse is highly significant, the meaning of which we shall consider a little later.